Quantifying Cliff Lee’s Beard Power…?

Here at TTB, we have absolutely no problem with guest writers wanting to share their knowledge with the rest of the community, regardless if they have a blog of their own or not. Today’s guest post comes from the bull pen in Washington as the pair of specs that decorate the face of Nationals reliever Tyler Clippard (@TClippardsSpecs) talks about Cliff Lee and the power – or lack there of – that comes from his beard. We introduce to you, Beard-ometrics (or BRD).

A bearded Cliff Lee gives up three home runs in the 8th inning against the Blue Jays on July 3. But was it the facial hair's fault? (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darren Calabrese)

With the Midsummer Classic behind us, in which each league’s All Star roster was roughly the size of the Latvian Army, I’d like to reflect upon the season of one of the Phillie Phortunate, Cliff Lee, and try to dig deeper into his stats, and find the potential secret of his success.

Beard Power. It’s rampant across the NL East, and has been linked to the great seasons of many in the division. Brian McCann, Doc Halladay, the breakout seasons of Washington’s Michael Morse and Danny Espinosa, and of course Lee’s usual All Star numbers- their facial follicles are pointed to as being the main driver of their outstanding first halves. Is there a statistical affirmation of beards making the man, and his season?

To pursue the answer, I chose Lee as my example because, compared to others that pray in the House of the Beard, he isn’t as devout a follower, and his on again/off again beard status would allow for a more statistically robust result.

So, let’s get down to brass tacks…

So far in 2011, Cliff has pitched in 19 games- 12 with a beard, 7 without. To get these values, I am grateful to Twitter great @JWerthsBeard with the assist in figuring out which starts corresponded to shaven and clean shaven. I will leave it up to you to check out all of his first half stats, but briefly, Cliff is chugging along with a 9-6 record, and 2.82 ERA.

With that in mind, here are Cliff’s numbers while rocking a beard:

For those unfamiliar with the last stat, aLI, it is average leverage index, and is the average ‘pressure’ a player faced in a situation. An aLI of 1 is average pressure, with anything over 1 considered high pressure, and below 1, low pressure situations. This, along with all of the other raw stats, were taken from Lee’s profile at baseball-reference.com.

At first glance, the win-loss record is striking, in that with a beard on the road, Lee isn’t having a good season. He’s giving up double the hits and HR’s he does at home while bearded in away games, and his numbers are subpar across the board. He is striking out people at a slightly higher rate, but given his other numbers, this could be accounted for by him going for the strikeout versus pitching to contact, and letting his defense work for him. His away aLI is in the ‘high pressure’ category, and with good reason. A caveat to these numbers is that these stats include his season starting April 8th start, which was a bit of a clunker- 6ER on 10 hits over 3.1 innings- which of course skews the averages upwards.

Not wanting to be all doom and gloom, let’s shift focus to Lee’s home record with a beard. It is a stark contrast to the away numbers.; a nifty 1.33 ERA, a respectable GB/FB ratio, and WHIP all factor into his 4-0 record at home, and away from the Barbasol.

Having fun yet? If you aren’t, you will be after this, Lee’s stats clean shaven…

Wow wee. Clean shaven, Cliff Lee is a beast, home and away. An overall K/9 of almost 12, a sub-1.00 WHIP and a 5-2 record, all while going much deeper into games compared to his bearded outings, is quite the Jekyll and Hyde transformation. Also of note are the more consistent outings and numbers when comparing home and away.

While this type of analysis is whimsical at heart, it is written not to detract from the year Cliff Lee is having, but to shine a light on the frivolities and fickleness of this wonderful game. If the first half of this season is any indication, Cliff Lee might have a very special second half of 2011 if he remains clean shaven; with the numbers I’ve just presented, I’m sure Phillies fans, and Lee fantasy owners would be grateful if he did.

I’m sure the missus wouldn’t mind, either.


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