August 4, 2021

JAWS and the 2020 Hall of Fame Ballot: Cliff Lee (FanGraphs)

The following article is part of Jay Jaffe’s ongoing look at the candidates on the BBWAA 2020 Hall of Fame ballot. For a detailed introduction to this year’s ballot, and other candidates in the series, use the tool above; an introduction to JAWS can be found here. For a tentative schedule and a chance to fill out a Hall of Fame ballot for our crowdsourcing project, see here. All WAR figures refer to the Baseball-Reference version unless otherwise indicated.

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…

Read “JAWS and the 2020 Hall of Fame Ballot: Cliff Lee” at FanGraphs