Stray Thoughts and Things On Halladay’s Season Debut
You’ll forgive me if you’ve (no doubt) read multiple dissections on other sites by this point in the day, but Roy Halladay’s season debut last night was just too strange to leave by the wayside. I have no idea if any of this means anything, I just found it all interesting, so enjoy my jumbled inventory as best you can.
First, ponder the raw line: 3.1 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 9 K
Halladay recorded 10 total outs and nine were strikeouts. He’s the first pitcher to appear in any capacity and strike out nine while getting no more than 10 total outs. So, even just skimming the surface, things are already a little weird.
As we begin to cut down through the layers, we see things like this:
One overlooked red flag (not velocity) from Roy Halladay’s first start sulia.com/c/philadelphia…
— Matt Gelb (@magelb) April 4, 2013
Pitch f/x data is unavailable for Doc’s spring starts, so I’m unsure if this is something that was purposefully put in place. I’d wager a guess that it wasn’t, but it’d only be a guess.
Halladay generated 14 swing-and-misses: six via changeup, five via curveball and three via cutter. Here they are mapped below:
The majority of the whiffs were generated on pitches in good locations, but Doc did get away with three mistakes (as seen in the center of the map). The slightly larger mass toward the left edge of the plate denotes two whiffs: first-pitch cutters to Justin Upton (to start the at-bat in which he would later homer) and Jason Heyward (who would later strike out). The very center-cut pitch was a hung curve that rookie catcher Evan Gattis struck out on.
Jayson Stark added this observation:
Halladay’s odd outing: 6 outs, 6 K’s, 3 R, 3 hits, 2 BB. When he’s ahead, can get them to chase. When behind doesn’t have stuff to challenge
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) April 4, 2013
Indeed, Halladay’s stuff still has plenty of movement. But with a lack of velocity (typically) comes an increasingly vulnerable fastball. Halladay threw 25 of his 95 pitches in hitters’ counts (compared with 35 while ahead and 35 with a level count).
- Hitter’s Counts: 2 whiffs in 25 pitches (8 percent)
- Pitcher’s Counts: 7 whiffs in 35 pitches (20 percent)
- Even Counts: 5 whiffs in 35 pitches (14.3 percent)
Indeed, Braves hitters didn’t miss many of their opportunities when they surfaced. What’s more, Halladay seemed to lean on his cutter after he fell behind. Sixteen of the 25 hitter’s count pitches he threw were cutters, and they produced the following:
- Five called strikes (three of those on 2-0 counts)
- Three foul balls
- Seven balls (including two that completed a walk)
- One for a hit (Heyward’s single in bottom 1)
- Zero swinging strikes
That’s 11 of 16 pitches (68.8 percent) for a neutral or negative outcome. When ahead, Doc could use his curveball (19 of 35 pitches) to produce this:
- One called strike
- One foul ball
- 12 balls
- One in-play out (Doc’s only one of the game, a groundout)
- Four swinging strikes
That’s 13 of 19 pitches for a negative or neutral outcome, a rate nearly identical to (68.4 percent; but actually slightly worse) than the one above. Obviously, we’ve got nowhere near enough for any sort of “stable” sample on this front to compare, but Halladay’s opponents’ lines from against the curve in a pitcher’s count saw a tick up last season:
- 2012: .168/.168/.224
- 2011: .148/.155/.165
Something to keep an eye on, if nothing else.
It’s too early to tell if any of this is indicative of potential season-long trends, but given the spring we all just witnessed, this start wasn’t exactly the fear-assuaging outing we hoped it would be. At least the Ks were nice.