Jaffe: JAWS and the 2020 Hall of Fame ballot: Cliff Lee

From SABR member Jay Jaffe at FanGraphs on December 19, 2019:

Like Johan Santana, Roy Oswalt, and many a great pitcher before them, Cliff Lee burned brightly but briefly. Though he lacked a high-velocity fastball, the 6-foot-3, 205-pound lefty — “lean like a knife blade, with a club fighter’s big jaw,” as Pat Jordan described him in 2011 — had a deceptive delivery and precision command of a broad arsenal of weapons. His mid-career addition of a cut fastball, inspired by — who else? — Mariano Rivera turned him from an innings-eater into an ace.

From 2008-13, Lee was arguably the best pitcher in baseball. His 36.8 WAR over that span was nearly four full wins ahead of the second-ranked Clayton Kershaw, who to be fair was a late-May call-up at the start of that stretch (by fWAR, Lee had a 1.5-WAR lead over second-ranked Justin Verlander). Over that six-year span, Lee had the majors’ second-lowest ERA (2.89), the lowest FIP (2.85) and walk rate (1.33 per nine), and the highest strikeout-to-walk ratio of any pitcher with at least 600 innings. During that time, which began when Lee was 29 and fresh off the sting of having spent a good chunk of the previous season in Triple-A while his teammates came within one win of the AL pennant, he won a Cy Young award, pitched for two World Series teams, was traded three times, made four All-Star teams, and signed the third-richest deal for a pitcher to that point.

Read the full article here: https://blogs.fangraphs.com/jaws-and-the-2020-hall-of-fame-ballot-cliff-lee/

Originally published: December 20, 2019. Last Updated: December 20, 2019.