After watching Cliff Lee dominate my Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS, and dominate, well, everybody, throughout the playoffs last season, people are starting to rank him as one of the greatest postseason pitchers of all time.  The only way to compare them is to put Lee up against the greatest postseason pitcher of all time, Sandy Koufax.

Let’s take a quick look at the pitching lines.

Sandy Koufax: 4-3 record, 57 innings, 32 hits, 10 runs, 2 home runs, 11 walks, 61 strikeouts

Cliff Lee: 6-0 record, 56 1/3 innings, 32 hits, 11 runs, 1 home run, 6 walks, 54 strikeouts

Those numbers are strikingly close.  But Koufax’s numbers are a bit skewed.  Of those 10 runs he allowed, only six were earned (good enough for a 0.95 ERA).  Plus Lee got beat up in Game 5 last year of the World Series when he allowed five earned runs—one less than Koufax did in his entire postseason careerand he STILL got the win.  As good as Lee has been, there’s only one Sandy Koufax.  

In the 1965 World Series, Koufax pitched on three days rest and on two days restthrew two complete game shutout victories.  Cliff Lee has NEVER pitched on three days rest in his life.

That’s the argument for Koufax being better.  For Leehe does have the better record (though I firmly believe that wins are as much a team category as a personal category).  He does have nearly half the amount of walks that Koufax did (though both had precise control), and let up one less long ball.  But the big argument would be Lee has had to face the DH in four of his starts, while Koufax never did.  Lee’s best argument of being the best postseason pitcher ever is in the strength of the line-ups he’s had to facethe Yankees (now twice), the Rays, the Rockies, and the Dodgers.  

But is that enough to put Lee over Koufax?  Definitely not.  Sandy Koufax is one of the five greatest pitchers…EVER.  Cliff Lee isn’t.  Sandy Koufax was a two-time World Series MVP and a four-time World Series champion.  Lee has never won a World Series.  His performance in the 1965 World Series is the greatest ever.  Pitching with severe elbow troubles, winning Game 5 (on three days rest) and Game 7 (on two days rest)with complete game shutouts, neverthelessis an achievement that is almost impossible to think about today.  

The final argument: Koufax retired when he was 30.  His arm simply gave out on him. Well kind of.  In 1966his final season, all Koufax did was pitch 323 innings, with a 27-9 record, and a 1.79 ERA.  After the World Series that year (the Dodgers were swept), Koufax retired due to traumatic arthritis in his arm.  Cliff Lee didn’t make his first postseason start until he was 31 years oldor a year older than Koufax was when he RETIRED.  Lee had years of experience in the regular season, while Koufax was thrust into the limelight and spotlight of the postseason at a much younger age.

Cliff Lee is simply filthy, and a guy I certainly don’t want to see in the playoffs.  But Sandy Koufax is the best that ever was, and the best that ever will be.

Michael Perchick is the writer/editor of TheJockosphere, a sports/Twitter site, reporting the top tweets and news directly from athletes.  Follow him on Twitter @TheREALPerchick, and at 

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