Aug 25, 2009, 3:05 PM EDT
About a week before the July 31 trading deadline I wrote an article comparing Roy Halladay to Cliff Lee, concluding that “the gap between them hasn’t been as big as most people seem to think and given the likely costs involved in acquiring each player Lee could prove to be a better target.”
Plenty of comments and e-mails disagreed with me, because at the time Halladay was being touted as the ace getting shopped for packages of elite prospects and Lee was viewed as more of an afterthought or fallback plan. Fast forward a month and things have changed quite a bit.
Halladay stayed in Toronto and has gone 2-3 with a 4.50 ERA and .320 opponents’ batting average in five starts since the trading deadline, including getting knocked around for eight runs on a dozen hits last night. Lee was dealt to the Phillies, where he’s gone 5-0 with a 0.68 ERA and .175 opponents’ batting average in five starts, including allowing just two unearned runs over seven innings last night.
All things being equal I’d still probably take Halladay over Lee long term, but the comparison is an example of why focusing strictly on performance rather than getting caught up in name recognition or perceived value can be illuminating. To the average fan Halladay was the big name and the stud pitcher, but in reality his performance was just slightly better than Lee’s during their previous 50 starts.
No one could have known that Halladay would struggle and Lee would be unhittable, but it wasn’t tough to see that the Phillies got a comparable top-of-the-rotation starter for a fraction of what it would have cost to add the bigger name. Toss in the fact that Lee is 15 months younger and will make $8 million next season while Halladay earns $15.75 million and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. is looking awfully smart right now.
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