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Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

August 27, 2010 at 7:11 AM

Mid-season pitching trades — and non-trades — can take funny turns

Suddenly, the big story in Texas is, “What’s wrong with Cliff Lee?” He got roughed up again last night in the Rangers 6-4 loss to the Twins, giving up seven hits and five runs (including a three-run Delmon Young homer) in five innings.

In his last four starts, Lee is 0-3, 8.39, having allowed 34 hits (including five homers) in 24 2/3 innings. On the plus side, he also has 30 strikeouts and just three walks, leading me to think he’ll pull out of it. But overall, Lee is 2-5, 4.50 in 10 starts with Texas since the Rangers acquired him from the Mariners. Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News has an interesting theory, backed up with stats, that Lee needs some more rest.

In looking at the most prominent starting pitchers traded at or before the July 31 non-waiver deadline this year, you can see that all the initial hype doesn’t always play out as expected:

Cliff Lee, Rangers: 10 starts, 2-5, 4.50 ERA

Roy Oswalt, Phillies: 5 starts, 3-1, 2.43 ERA

Dan Haren, Angels: 7 starts, 2-4, 4.02 ERA

Jake Westbrook, Cardinals: 5 starts, 1-2, 4.06 ERA

Edwin Jackson, White Sox: 4 starts, 2-0, 0.96 ERA

Ted Lilly, Dodgers: 5 starts, 5-0, 1.83 ERA

Lilly has been the best of the deadline hurlers, and his acquisition flew under the radar. The White Sox were thought to want Jackson only so they could package him to Washington in a trade for Adam Dunn. That didn’t work out, and they were “stuck” with Jackson, who has been great for them. But Daniel Hudson, the young pitcher they sent to Arizona for Jackson, is 3-1 with a 1.72 ERA in five starts for the Diamondbacks. (Joe Saunders, whom the Diamondbacks acquired from the Angels in the Haren deal, is 1-4 with a 5.21 ERA in six starts).

It’s obviously too early to judge these trades. The pitchers can all make their mark down the stretch, and in the playoffs — as Cliff Lee did last year with the Phillies. But consider also that sometimes not making a trade can work out, too. The Twins, for instance, tried to deal for Lee and other starters, but couldn’t swing a deal. Instead, they moved Brian Duensing from the bullpen to the rotation on July 23. From that date until Wednesday, the Twins’ starters went 16-3 with a 3.16 ERA, and the team was 20-6 overall. Duensing was 4-0 with a 2.18 ERA in that span, including a three-hit shutout against Oakland. He lost his last start to the Rangers.

Of course, to get a true gauge of these kinds of trades, you need to see the progress of all the young prospects acquired while shedding veterans. So check back in, oh, 2013.

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