2013 Phillies Report Card: Roy Halladay
Here, you’re going to need this:
I’ve previously done some documentation of Halladay’s collapse. From the very start of 2013, the same issues — velocity, command, stuff — were obvious. Partly that’s because every Phillies fan (and, really, fans of baseball) were microanalyzing each of his early starts, trying desperately to wring out of them any reason to be optimistic. None were forthcoming.
Roy Halladay labored through seven starts in the beginning of 2013, all of them hard to watch. Even in his 8 inning, 1 earned run outing against Miami on April 14th, Halladay did not look himself, surrendering a lot of deep fly balls and striking out only 2 hitters. His velocity on the cutter and sinker remained substandard, and hitters teed off, blasting 9 home runs in those seven starts, an average of 2.36 per 9 innings.
When Halladay scheduled time to talk to reporters on May 8th, three days after surrendering 9 runs to 17 Marlins hitters and leaving after 2 and one third innings, we all knew the news would not be good. The question, I thought, was “season over” or “career over?” Doc reported a bone spur and a partial tear of his rotator cuff, in addition to some further fraying of the labrum that had plagued him in 2012. In terms of pitcher injuries, this is about as bad as it gets; a torn ligament in the elbow would be preferable.
So when Halladay told reporters that the doctors were optimistic they could “turn back the clock two or three years,” I don’t think any of us really believed that. I’m skeptical, for that matter, that he believed it. When he said he would pitch again in 2013, on the other hand, I was certain that was true. Everything we knew about Roy Halladay assured us he would spare no amount of hard work and effort to get back to the mound, which is what made it all the more saddening to witness. Because you can never really turn back the clock.
All the clock did was grind relentlessly forward. The Phillies lost games, sunk far out of contention after a brief pre-All-Star surge, and Halladay lifted weights and ran up stairs and (I assume) pulled jumbo jets with a harness in Clearwater, until he was asked to stop by the FAA because he ran so hard that they kept taking off. His first post-rehab start, on August 25th, was solid, but unconvincing. After everything we’d observed over the last 2 seasons, it probably would’ve taken a 9 strikeout, 2 hit shutout to believe he was his former self. In any case, Halladay’s next start saw him surrender 5 runs in as many innings, walking 2 hitters and striking out only one.
Through August and September, Halladay pitched 27 and two-thirds innings, walked more hitters than he struck out, and posted a 4.55 ERA, which is probably not representative of just how badly he looked. In his final start of the season and possibly as a Phillie, he threw 16 pitches before leaving with arm trouble, never cracking 85 miles per hour with any of his pitches. Viewed as a whole, his 2013 season was plagued by the same problems he experienced in 2012: inadequate velocity, mechanics inhibited by pain, and, not to sound like a broken record, but (click for big):
If Halladay is unable to locate his pitches exactly where he wants to work on a hitter, he cannot manipulate them, cannot induce weak contact or whiffs. Jamming his cutter in on left-handed hitters and carving away against righties inside with the sinker was a foundational approach for Doc. But his failing shoulder, even worse than hampering his velocity, impeded his ability to command each and every pitch as he needed.
What I wrote in Ryan Howard’s report card about it being difficult to watch someone get steamrolled by inevitability applies tenfold to Roy Halladay. We were watching a battle that was impossible to win, waged by a likeable and immensely talented player who would crawl to the mound and fling the ball in a somersault motion if his legs were cut off. Roy Halladay loves baseball, cares more about baseball, and works harder at baseball than I have ever loved, cared about, or worked at any hobby or job in my life, or probably ever will. It’s bordering on profane for me to look at the seasons in which his body finally failed him, and give him some flimsy letter grade. And yet I must. F.