What to Expect from Roy Halladay

This season has quickly morphed from a macabre, grotesque affair into a fascinating and bizarre one tailored by the baseball gods specifically for ardent sadists and Jayson Stark. Today, August 25th, the season hits its peculiar pinnacle. Less than twelve hours ago we saw two position players, who have played for a combined six teams this year, take the mound at Citizens Bank Park. Both of those players got out a hitter whose name is “Tuffy Gosewisch,” a man who already had an interesting place in recent Phillies history. A player named Adam Eaton got the game winning hit. It was the longest game in the history of the Philadelphia Phillies, the oldest continuous, one-name, one-city franchise in all of professional American sports, as well as the longest game in Diamondbacks history, a team that debuted in 1998 (Travis Lee had 3 hits in their first ever game). All this depravity forces an unwanted spot start from maybe the best pitcher of the last decade, Roy Halladay. Yes, someone in the Phillies front office today uttered the words, “Well, it’s not ideal, but I guess we’ll have to start Halladay today.” It’s all very strange. Based on what’s happened lately I hesitate to post this scouting report on Roy Halladay for fear that he might come out today throwing in the mid nineties. Left handed.

In his previous rehab start at Lakewood, Roy Halladay’s fastball ranged anywhere from 85-89mph and mostly sat 87-88mph with varying degrees of movement. At times the pitch had sharp, late, armside run and looked like a weapon Major Leaguers would have trouble squaring up. Mostly, however, it was fringe average. Halladay’s secondary offerings were similarly underwhelming. While his split/change garnered several lousy swings (sat 78-81mph with it) thanks to decent arm speed and nice downward fade and I think it can still be a useful big-league pitch. His curveball and cutter were easily below average offerings that were tagged by hitters who are in the embryonic stages of their professional development. There were three or four curveballs that looked alright, usually the ones that were thrown in the 77-79mph range as opposed to the 74-76mph ones we saw more often that were begging to be smashed. The cutter (mostly 84-86mph) was flat and had the most inconsistent release point of any of Halladay’s pitches. Once or twice Halladay would walk off the mound to the dugout at the end of the inning miming his release of the pitch, a prehensile dance usually done by teenagers working to manifest the foreign instructions of their new pitching coaches into mechanical reality. It was jarring and sophomoric. The command and control were similarly poor.

We obviously can’t assume that the Roy Halladay I saw this past week is the Roy Halladay we’ll see in the future or even today. Coming back from an injury like the one(s) he’s dealt with takes more than two rehab starts to overcome. I hope there’s more in the tank if for no other reason than because I can’t stand watching Roy Halladay’s competitive soul eat him from the inside out as he struggles to retire hitters. This is a man who is universally respected and adored by a city notoriously difficult to endear oneself to, a special man who might no longer have a special right arm.

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