Roy Halladay Is Fine

Roy Halladay allowed five runs in six innings to the new division rival Washington Nationals, ballooning his ERA to 3.58. It was his second mediocre start in the month of May. For most pitchers, it’s business as usual, but Halladay has earned a reputation as baseball’s most consistently elite pitcher over the years. As a result, last night combined with his 5.1 IP, 8 ER start against the Atlanta Braves on May 2, people are panicking, wondering what’s wrong with Halladay.

Myself, Paul Boye, and Ryan Sommers have covered his season in exhaustive detail, so I won’t bother you with another treatise on the subject. However, I would like to point out some stats that indicate to me that Halladay’s season shouldn’t cause worry.

  • Strikeout rate as a percentage of batters faced
  • 2012: 19.7%
  • Career: 18.7%
  • Note: His strikeout rate had been higher in the last four seasons, two with the Blue Jays and two with the Phillies. In 2003, when Halladay won his first Cy Young award, his strikeout rate was 19.1%, however.
  • Walk rate as a percentage of batters faced
    • 2012: 4.6%
    • Career: 5.0%
    • Note: Converse to his strikeout rate, Halladay is walking more batters than he had in the previous four seasons, but he still has a K-BB ratio in excess of four-to-one. Only 17 qualified starting pitchers have an equal or better ratio (including three of his teammates).
  • Batting average on balls in play.
    • 2012: .290
    • Career: .292
    • Note: His BABIP is interesting. This year, his BABIP on ground balls and line drives are .296 and .677, respectively, compared to .202 and .749 over his career. It’s a very small sample, so there’s a ton of variance here. Still, it’s interesting and something to monitor going forward. At the very least, we know he isn’t getting hit hard.
  • Home run rate as a percentage of fly balls induced
    • 2012: 7.6%
    • Career: 9.7%
    • Note: His overall fly ball rate is also in line with his career average (30%, 26%).
  • ERA/xFIP/SIERA
    • 2012: 3.58/3.30/3.37
    • Career: 3.24/3.16/3.26
    • Note: Rather self-explanatory. xFIP is an ERA retrodictor that uses a pitcher’s fly ball rate, while SIERA accounts for the interaction between a pitcher’s batted ball profile and his strikeout and walk rates.

    Basically, if you’re unhappy with Halladay’s performance thus far, then you’re unhappy with his career to date. No, he isn’t as dominant as he was during the last two years, but they are at the far right of the bell curve. His 2012 performance is right in the middle of his Hall of Fame bell curve, and that’s plenty good enough atop the starting rotation.

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    18 comments

    1. The Citizens Bankers

      May 23, 2012 07:26 AM

      So Roy Halladay pitched yesterday… That BABIP on GB is scary, but you’re right: lots of variance.

    2. LTG

      May 23, 2012 07:42 AM

      I’d prefer the BABIP on GB to remain this high if it corresponds to a lower BABIP on LD… not that the world works like that or anything.

    3. Noah

      May 23, 2012 08:40 AM

      Off topic, but it would be amazing if both the bullpen and the offense could perform at the same time. As soon as one gets going the other fizzles out.

    4. hk

      May 23, 2012 08:46 AM

      BB,

      Understanding the small sample size issue, is there a place in the conversation for comparing Halladay’s current season to his prior two seasons with the Phillies (SIERA of 2.90 in ’10 and 2.79 last year) instead of comparing it to his career? As great as his numbers were with Toronto, they’ve been even better since he left the AL (and the AL East in particular).

    5. jackieinertia

      May 23, 2012 10:45 AM

      i let the fan side of me overtake the rational side. i saw halladay give up a dinger at the cubs game, then again yesterday and my brain automatically went to “jeebus, halladay is giving up a ton of homers this year”. clearly, no more than his usual. numbers are good for keeping one grounded in reality.

    6. Sulla

      May 23, 2012 11:56 AM

      Its hard to expect a pitcher to have three years in a row of Cy Young caliber stats, especially one approaching 36 years of age. He’s allowed an ‘off’ year with a 3+ e.r.a.

      On most teams that wouldn’t be so much of a problem…

    7. Jim

      May 23, 2012 01:32 PM

      If Roy Halladay lost every time he gave up five or more runs in a start, and won every time he gave up three runs or less, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

    8. Briks

      May 23, 2012 02:35 PM

      Like hk mentioned, Halladay’s peripherals may be in line with his career numbers, but that includes his time in Toronto in the AL East. Actually though, even the end of his time in Toronto was better than this year. His peripherals this year are clearly the worst since 2007 actually. Its still early but his strikeout rate is down a decent amount, his walk rate is up, and his GB% is the lowest of his career. All of that still adds up to a very good pitcher, but not the dominant Halladay we’ve seen the past couple years. Its completely legitimate to think we might not ever see the DOMINANT Roy of the past few seasons ever again, given his age.

    9. Jim

      May 23, 2012 02:45 PM

      If Roy wants to be DOMINANT again on this Phillies team, the best thing he could do is start hitting home runs himself.

    10. pedro3131

      May 23, 2012 02:51 PM

      I think the bigger problem with the Phillies then Doc is our inability to play good baseball within our division. I don’t feel like looking up the stats but I don’t think we need to see the numbers to see how differently we’ve handled the mets and nats versus recent years. Is there any weird statistical variance that’s accounting for this, or is the rest of the division finally catching up to us?

    11. Briks

      May 23, 2012 03:04 PM

      Jim,

      Or he could pitch like he has the past 2 years, which he is clearly hasn’t done this year. I’m a huge Halladay fan, but to pretend like he isn’t having a down year for himself because the offense is struggling too makes no sense.

    12. Jim

      May 23, 2012 03:21 PM

      Briks,
      Actually, I’m the one who is not pretending – not pretending that I know what Roy Halladay’s stats/season will look like on September 30th when it is May 23rd. Talk to me at the end of July, and if Halladay’s numbers are still off, I’ll concede the point.

    13. hk

      May 23, 2012 03:22 PM

      Dominance has nothing to do with Hallday’s run support (4.1 runs per game, by the way) nor his win / loss record.

    14. Briks

      May 23, 2012 03:28 PM

      Jim,

      I don’t think anyone has mentioned what his numbers will look like at the end of the year. But the fact that his numbers (peripherals, not ERA) are down through 10 starts so far this year and he is 35 years old makes it legit to think he might be on the decline, even while being a very good pitcher still.

    15. Richard

      May 24, 2012 06:03 AM

      pedro, the recent Mets losses were all late-ish leads that the bullpen shat away; two of the Nats losses this season have been games that could have gone either way, one of which involved a missing umpire impacting several calls (the other four games were either clear Phillies wins or clear Nats wins).

      So I’d say that more than a little luck, or random variance, is involved. Which doesn’t mean it won’t continue.

    16. Justin

      May 24, 2012 08:29 AM

      I agree his ratios look good and are in line with his career numbers. From what I’ve heard, I believe people are concerned with his pitch selection more than his statistical numbers. Based on fangraphs, Halladay is throwing his fastball less this year (16.4%) than last year (22.6%) and far less than 2010 (37.4%). His cutter is being throwing about the same as last year (44.6% vs 44.8%) and more than 2010 (34.2%). He started throwing his curve more this year (23%) than the previous two years (17.1%, 16.9%). Fangraphs shows that he stop throwing his changeup the last two years but started throwing a splitfinger in those years. Assuming fangraphs is a reliable source, there has been changes in his pitching approach. Last year by all accounts was a very successful year, and personally I believe he should have won the Cy Young. The only real difference between this year and last is his decress in fastballs thrown and his increase in curveballs thrown. Fangraphs shows he has thrown his curveball at or above the % he is throwing it this year but he has never dipped down to the low he is currently throwing his fastball. I think the question needs to be, is the frequency changes in pitch types indicative of an arm injury or a projection of future problems??

    17. Cutter

      May 25, 2012 08:00 AM

      The problem is, this Phillies team is designed to win based on starting pitching. They need dominating outings from their ace starters. They need Halladay to once again pitch like one of the best starters in baseball.

      If Halladay is now just a very good pitcher rather than the uber ace he has been the past few seasons, then that is not good news for this team.

    18. steve

      May 27, 2012 01:53 PM

      I remember him having issues years ago, with pain in arm when throwing his cutter. cutter is his best pitch.

      Is it possible this pain is coming back ?

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