Dylan Lee may just be a long reliever. He may just play in low leverage, mop up situations. But that hasn’t stopped him from being one of the most effective bullpen arms on the team. Yesterday was an extension of that dominance, as Lee took over for a struggling Spencer Strider and hurled 1.2 scoreless, one-hit innings.
Braves Twitter has rightfully been giving Lee a lot more attention. His 0.825 WHIP and 2.90 FIP serve to legitimize the elite 0.68 ERA that he’s put up. Although the former Marlin isn’t going to rack up strikeouts like AJ Minter, you couldn’t ask for more out of a long reliever, and it may be time to give him a look in more high leverage situations.
Compared to 2021 mop-up pitcher Sean Newcomb, Lee is an astronomical upgrade. None of Newcomb’s control issues are shared by Lee; in fact, Lee has only walked two batters in 15 innings. He doesn’t throw 100, nor does he have a large repertoire. So how does the journeyman southpaw succeed?
Keys to success
For the most part, Lee relies on two things to maintain success — control and change of speeds.
You don’t need to throw 100 MPH to make it in the majors — just ask Lance Lynn. While it’s a dying art, pitchers who have pinpoint accuracy can produce results, and Lee simply doesn’t miss. Combine that with an eight-tick difference between his fastball and curveball, and batters are left guessing with every pitch.
At first glance, these numbers might look unsustainable, and they are, to a degree. Lee isn’t going to have a sub-1.00 ERA all season. But don’t be surprised if he keeps that ERA well below 3.00. Alex Anthopoulos has struck again with yet another diamond in the rough, and I’ll be interested to see how the Braves use him moving forward. Lee has certainly earned more opportunities, but as the rest of the Braves bullpen continues to get healthy, it may be best for him to stick in his current role, where he’s been nearly unhittable. The long relief role may not be the sexiest, but it is critical to a team’s success over the course of a 162-game season.
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