Cliff Lee

As it turns out, Cliff Lee’s tour and demolition of the National League will be put on hold, at least through the 2010 season. If the blockbuster involving Roy Halladay, the Phillies, and the Mariners occurs, Lee is rumored to be on the move for the second time in six months, this time to the Pacific Northwest.

Seattle has no shortage of mid– and back-end starters currently piled behind Felix Hernandez in their rotation. Brandon Morrow has some potential, as do Ryan Rowland-Smith and Ian Snell, but pitchers like Doug Fister and Jason Vargas are what you think they are. Unlike the failed Erik Bedard experiment, which was doomed thanks to injuries, Lee has thrown more than 200 innings in four of his last five seasons. His xFIP over the last two seasons have been 3.57 and 3.69, his groundball rate has sat above 40% while his fly balls are below 40%, and oh yeah, he’s left-handed.

Lee throws a variety of pitches. A four and two-seamer, neither of which gets much in the way of whiffs but both are thrown nearly 70% of the time for strikes. A change-up that misses bats and hits the zone, a slider which does the same, and a lesser used curve that – you guessed it – follows a similar pattern. Lee throws strikes and walks few. His modest strikeout rates are boosted by such efficiency and a move back to the American League means he probably won’t post a 3.2 xFIP moving forward, but his ERA should shine in front of the Seattle defense and in Safeco.

We aren’t sure exactly what Seattle will give up yet. Hopefully we find out soon enough. What we do know is that Lee has posted back-to-back seasons with more than 6 WAR and seems destined to repeat once more barring injury. The Fans currently have Lee at 6.1 WAR, and you can contribute your vote (if you haven’t already) by clicking here.

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24 Responses to “Cliff Lee”

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  1. BATTLETANK says:

    i’m still not confident that its lee going to seattle.

    every single rumor has someone new in it.

    the only concrete things we know is that there’s a trade between seattle/phi/tor. and that Joe Blanton, J.A. Happ, and Domonic Brown took physicals.

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  2. schmenkman says:

    “demolition of the National League”
    - 7 Quality Starts out of 12
    - 7-4 with a 3.39 ERA
    Very good, but not quite demolition. I will add that his FIP (2.83) was 11th among pitchers with 50+ IP.

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    • Brian says:

      That “11th among pitchers with 50+IP” is a bit disingenuous, as it counts relievers. Limit it to only starters and he’s 4th.

      Still, I agree with the premise, that “demolition of the National League” might be a bit of a stretch.

      Also, as a Mariners fan, this is amazing and I can’t wait for next season.

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    • Steve says:

      really, a 2.83 FIP isn’t “demolition”?

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      • Steve says:

        let me just add that maybe you’re right, b/c we are going to have to move the definition of “demolition” to accomodate what Halladay is going to do next year.

        THAT is going to be demolition.

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  3. Rob in CT says:

    The Mariners sure look like they’re going for it. The AL West should be interesting next year.

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  4. Bill says:

    Roy Halladay in the NL will be demolition, look out Lincecum.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      I agree.

      I said in another thread, but IMO, Roy Halladay in the NL is going to “the best of Chris Carpenter” …. only for 240 IP.

      Looking back as to what newcomers to the NL have done (Arroyo, Volquez, Lee, etc) and Halladay’s 1st half of the season has the potential to just be mind-blowing, while hitters try to figure him out (good luck).

      Lincecum will be the front-runner as the Reigning CY and the Strikeout King … but Halladay is going to get him in IP and WHIP, ERA, and likely finish 2nd or 3rd in K’s. In the end, Halladay, especially with being on the Phils, should take the Cy. Lincecum this year basically went up against Wainwright (not a perennial contender) and Carpenter (2/3′s of a season or so). Halladay comes in the rep and the numbers.

      He has been a 7 WAR pitcher in the AL, and in his 1st season in the NL (if healthy all year), I don;t see why he couldn;t be an 8 WAR pitcher.

      I hate the Phils, but I am excited to see more of Halladay in the NL.

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  5. BATTLETANK says:


    looks like

    PHI: Halladay, 6M, Amuont, Gillies, Ramirez
    Sea: Cliff Lee
    Tor: Drabek, Taylor, D’Arnaud

    phillies lose twice?

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    • BX says:

      MAJOR loss for Philly.

      WTF Amaro.

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      • Bodhizefa says:

        Really? I’m not a fan of Amaro at all, but I think he did quite well here. He gets the bonafide ace for below market length and cost and he gets a solid assortment of prospects who are possibly better than the original haul he gave up to acquire Lee in the first place. What’s not to like? Sure, every Philly fan would’ve preferred the Phils give up Drew Naylor and Travis Mattair instead of Drabek and Taylor, but they paid a very realistic price for four years of Halladay at reduced market cost/length.

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      • Kevin S. says:

        Below market cost? From what I’m hearing, the extension is 3 years, $60 million. Maybe below market years, but $20 MM/year isn’t anybody’s bargain.

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      • Everett says:

        As a Mariners fan, I’m not convinced that the Ms prospects are better than the Phillies prospects. I’d say Drabek is better than Aumont (who is currently being used as a reliver) andt hat Taylor is better than Gillies. I don’t know anything about D’Arnaud, so I have no idea there. Still, if I were a Phillies fan, I’d still probably take trading 1 year of Cliff Lee and downgrading 3 prospects in exchange for 4 years of Halladay at least, with an option.

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      • Joe R says:

        Amaro doesn’t need stats, duh.
        If he gives up Lee for Halliday (marginal upgrade, losing key prospect in D’Arnaud), that screams nothing but Amaro saying “Hey media, look what I can do!”

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  6. Randy says:

    The length of the contract affects the annual salary because longer contracts have a higher risk of injury/decline. If CC’s market value were actually $23M per year over 7 years, he’d be worth close to $30M a year on a 3 year deal. That makes Halladay a bargain at $20M.

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  7. TheUnrepentantGunner says:

    i dont think most phillies fans that read fangraphs are huge fans of amaro, but sometimes flawed processes can lead to reasonable results. Amaro may have different tools of evaluating players and dollars than most of us would, but big picture he at least has a plan.

    I mean, lets be honest. Pitchers are always an injury risk. Did Halladay and Lee get lucky and win a huge percentage of proverbial coin flips about developing arm trouble? Or were they built better with better mechanics?

    Either way, their performance when healthy pretty much justifies the risk. By getting Halladay at a very good contract (4 yearsat 20 mil a year for Halladay IS a bargain, sorry earleir commenter), they are in good shape. If his arm suddenly goes dead, they arent permanently trapped ala Vernon Wells. If he pitches well for 3 years and breaks down in year 4, all the better. If he is still a stud after 4 years, he will have to sign a contract based on being 36, and the phillies could get a discount anyway.

    Am i happy about losing Michael Taylor (who I’d rather play July 2010 than Ibanez?) No, can’t say that I am.

    Drabek could be a cheap ace, but lets give Amaro a chance, maybe he valued the Mariners prospects highly and sees something in them. I think no matter how well Halladay does, Amaro did reasonably well considering the big picture and that the phillies seem to be more profit oriented next year (I am dreading another price increase in our season tickets).

    Amaro has gotten talent evaluations more or less right so far (Ibanez included at least for 2009). With the context of presumably Lee being a Yankee in 2011 (yuck), the phillies did OK, though not as good as the Jay’s or mariners.

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  8. Coby DuBose says:

    Phillies are selling high on a guy with astronomical injury risk.

    270 innings this year. TWO-HUNDRED SEVENTY. He’s thrown 500 innings over the last 2 seasons. Go look up guys who have thrown 270+ innings in a year and look up guys who have gone from relatively light inning production to throwing 500 in a 2-year span.

    Cliff Lee’s arm was run into the ground in October. He’ll now get to shred his elbow under someone else’s watch.

    I’m amazed that this isn’t being mentioned more. Pitchers who throw 270 innings and aren’t conditioned for the wear end up going the way of Chris Capuano, Chris Carpenter, Brandon Webb, Roy Halladay, etc etc.

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    • Eric says:

      So so wrong. Did you not realize Lee pitched before 2008? He pitched 200 innings in both 05 and 06, so it’s not like Capuano who when from like 90 innings to 200 innings, Webb had 5 years of 200 IP and ~5 WAR production, and Halladay had a bad 2004/2005 but threw over 200 innings in 6 our of 8 years while maintaining an average of about 6 WAR. You keep posting this point, and it is valid, but you’re really going to use Halladay and Webb in your argument? And you’re going to compare Lee to Capuano in terms of jump in innings? This reeks of bitter Phillies fan to me.

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      • Coby DuBose says:

        Certainly not a Phillies fan. I’m actually as far from a Phillies fan as you could possibly get.

        There is a big difference in 200 and 270 innings. Guys who see huge spikes like this suffer ill effects from it. There’s just no getting around that.

        And there’s a big difference in Halladay pitching 230, 235, 238, etc etc year after year and Lee going 179, 200, 200, 59, 225, 270.

        Halladay had an injury filled 2004 (shoulder) after seeing the huge innings spike (~260) in 2003. He broke his leg the next year with a Texas line drive.

        Webb has saw a big two-year spike and had shoulder problems this season.

        Carpenter got up over 260 innings and blew his arm out.

        There are lots of these examples. It’s really pretty easy to look them up.

        Can you name pitchers who have thrown 260+ innings/500 in two years and have actually had their arm not fall off?

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  9. NEPP says:

    Halladay pitched 485 innings in the past 2 seasons…in comparison to Lee’s 495.

    Those 10 extra innings must be a HUGE injury risk, right?

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  10. sw says:

    Carpenter has some of the worst mechanics in the big leagues and Lee has among the best, according to the Pitching Mechanic: They are not comparable in any way, Carpenter is a DL magnet, and I don’t believe Lee has ever been on the DL.

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  11. neuter_your_dogma says:

    Why are “innings pitched” used to gauge the wear on a pitcher instead of total number of pitches? I heard yesterday that although Halladay’s innings pitched appears high, his total pitch count is actually lower than many because he is very efficient.

    Also, shouldn’t we take into account warm up pitches, bull pen sessions between starts, etc?

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  12. Mark says:

    Hello Fangraphs

    I thought you would be interested in our odds on the Cliff Lee and the Phillies. We have a prop on how many KO”s the Phillies staff will have this season.
    here’s the link:

    Feel free to email me back if you have any questions or would like an explanation of the odds.

    Thanks in Advance

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  13. Paola says:

    Hello Anderson,

    I thought you would be interested in our odds on the Cliff Lee and the Phillies. We have a prop on how many KO”s the Phillies staff will have this season.
    here’s the link:

    Feel free to email me back if you have any questions or would like an explanation of the odds.

    Thanks in Advance,


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