For Halladay, to Infinity and Beyond

Roy Halladay has made a career out of carving up hitters since he threw his first pitch in the Majors in 1998. He has expertly utilized his four-seam and cut fastballs and a doozy of a curve ball. Since he became a regular starting pitcher in 2002, his FIP has never been higher than 3.79 and only twice has he averaged two or more walks per nine innings in that span.

The numbers alone are very impressive, but also realize that he did all of that while pitching in the American League East division, the toughest division in Major League Baseball since ’02. The AL East has been home to Alex Rodriguez, David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Rafael Palmeiro, Carlos Pena, Miguel Tejada, Jason Giambi, and many more. Yet, fancy this:

  • Career ERA: 3.43 (.674 OPS)
  • vs. New York Yankees: 2.84 (.655)
  • vs. Baltimore Orioles: 2.89 (.646)
  • vs. Tampa Bay Rays: 3.67 (.717)
  • vs. Boston Red Sox: 4.28 (.714)

Since 2002, the Yankees have had the top-ranked offense in the American league (out of 14 teams) four times, and the Red Sox three times. Both New York and Boston’s offenses have been in the top-three in seven out of those eight seasons.

Compare the AL and NL Eastern divisions over Halladay’s career:

  

In the NL East, Halladay will be facing much easier competition including the opposing pitcher. The average designated hitter in the AL had an OPS of .780 in 2009; the average pitcher in the NL had an OPS of .355.

None of the Phillies’ rivals have improved offensively, and in fact they may be getting weaker. The Marlins are considering trading Dan Uggla; the Braves’ regular lineup will look a lot different than it did in 2009; the Mets are crossing their fingers and hoping for good health and a power resurgence from David Wright; and the Nationals are relying solely on Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn.

As if he needed yet another advantage, Halladay will have a more efficient defense behind him in Philadelphia. Last year, the Phillies put up a +6.2 UZR/150 compared to the Blue Jays’ -4.5. In ’08, the Phillies outpaced the Jays +14.8 to +3.1. The 2008 World Series champs lay claim to Jimmy Rollins, who has won the Gold Glove at shortstop three years running, and Shane Victorino who won his second consecutive as an outfielder. Not to be forgotten is Chase Utley, to whom Rob Neyer awarded the Gold Glove of the Decade at second base.

The current fan projections at FanGraphs put Halladay at about a 2.80 ERA with a 7.67 K/9 and 1.33 BB/9. Those would significantly outpace his career average 3.43 ERA, 6.57 K/9 and 2.00 BB/9. However, given the softer competition and more efficient defense that will be behind him, Halladay — who turns 33 in May — may be poised to put up the best full season of his career in his inaugural season in Philadelphia.

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2 comments

  1. hk

    December 26, 2009 12:25 PM

    Bill,

    Further to your point about the Phillies and their competition in the division, I keep reading comments on other blogs that the Phillies haven’t improved this offseason because Halladay is barely an upgrade over Lee. On its own merits, that statement is false. Halladay > Lee. However, the claim is even more inaccurate when you consider that the Phillies only had Lee for 1/3 of the season while they’ll have Halladay for the entire season. Therefore if Halladay starts 32 games, he’ll be replacing 12 starts from Lee plus 10 from Myers, 7 from Chan Ho, 2 from Kendrick and 1 from Drew Carpenter. That alone represents significant improvement.

  2. Mark

    December 27, 2009 10:04 PM

    And to further your point about the competition he faced in the AL East, he faced them likely at the height of the Steroid Era. Six of the seven names you used in this article have been linked to PEDs in the aftermath. So in addition to facing the toughest lineups in the game he was facing them while those players were using more than just their incredible natural abilities.

    Also, given his dominance since 2002 I would argue Halladay is the righty pitcher of the decade. True Pedro was more dominant, but not for a longer period of time. He will start the decade in a similar dominant fashion.

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