In my 2010 ALCS preview of Cliff Lee and Colby Lewis, I noted that Lewis is has a fairly typical arsenal of fastball, slider, curveball and changeup. We learned that he unsurprisingly takes a different approach against righties and lefties. Against righties he relies throws his fastball and slider almost exclusively:
To right-handed batters, Lewis uses his fastball around 53% of the time and then relies heavily on the slider, throwing it on 35% of the time. To right-handed batters, Lewis is throwing a fastball or a slider on almost 9 out of every 10 pitches. He mixes in the curveball (7.5%) and the changeup (4.3%) from time to time, but righties can expect a heavy diet of fastballs and sliders. Righties have had a very tough time with his slider in 2010, whiffing on it nearly a quarter of the time.
To lefties, however, Lewis preferred in 2010 to take a more diverse approach with his offspeed pitches:
With left-handed hitters Lewis takes a more varied approach. He still throws his fastball with frequency (60%), but throws his slider, curveball and changeup at nearly the same rate (14.3, 13.5 and 12.6, respectively). Lewis prefers to start batters out with his fastball. If he gets ahead 0-1 he still relies on his fastball but also introduces the curveball. At 0-2 he throws more offspeed stuff, relying on the fastball only 40%, throwing a slider 37% and a curveball 20%. Note the difference between lefties and righties. When up 0-2 on righties he’s big on the fastball and lighter on the slider. When up 0-2 on lefties he relies way more on the slider and the curveball.
In Game 2 of the ALCS, Hunter faced off against Phil Hughes and pitched fairly decently, going 5.2 innings and allowing 6 hits, two runs, three walks and six strikeouts. How did his approach match up with the scouting report?
Against right-handed pitchers Lewis was extremely predictable. The only two right-handed hitters in the lineup, Jeter and Rodriguez, saw a total of 15 pitches. Eight of these pitches were sliders, and the other seven were fastballs. Jeter went one for three off Lewis, striking out twice and getting an infield single off Lewis. Rodriguez was worse, going 0-3 with a flyout, groundout and popout. Lewis did exactly as advertised against the two of them, feeding them both fastballs and sliders and getting great results.
Against left-handed pitchers, Lewis relied a bit more on the curveball in Game 2 than he did in 2010. He threw 37 fastballs, 24 curveballs, 14 sliders and only 3 changeups. He commanded the fastball, curveball and slider well and got good swings and misses on the slider in particular. Both of the runs were caused by lefties. In the fourth inning, Cano doubled on an 88 mph fastball down in the zone. After Swisher struck out on a fastball and Posada on a slider, Berkman singled home Cano on a slider (and was promptly thrown out at second base). In the sixth inning Cano again hit Lewis hard, knocking a hanging slider into the upper deck in Arlington.
Lewis’ patterns are fairly clear at this point. Right-handed hitters can expect virtually nothing but sliders and fastballs. Even though this is predictable, it’s difficult because Lewis’ slider is a very good pitch and comes in only 4-5 mph slower than his high-80s, low-90s fastball. To lefties Lewis is slightly less predictable, mixing in a curveball and a slider to complement the fastball. The Yankees have now seen everything Lewis has to offer. Unfamiliarity is not an obstacle in Game 6. The question will be whether predictability translates into runs this time around.