CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

Premium and Super Premium Subscribers Get a 20% Discount at MLB.tv!

<< Previous Article
Premium Article Baseball Therapy: Read... (09/10)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Pebble Hunting: The Ro... (09/05)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Pebble Hunting: The My... (09/12)
Next Article >>
Monday Morning Ten Pac... (09/10)

September 10, 2012

Pebble Hunting

Will Roy Halladay Ever Complete a Game?

by Sam Miller

the archives are now free.

All Baseball Prospectus Premium and Fantasy articles more than a year old are now free as a thank you to the entire Internet for making our work possible.

Not a subscriber? Get exclusive content like this delivered hot to your inbox every weekday. Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get instant access to the best baseball content on the web.

Subscribe for $4.95 per month
Recurring subscription - cancel anytime.


a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Purchase a $39.95 gift subscription
a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Already a subscriber? Click here and use the blue login bar to log in.

On September 14th, Roy Halladay struck out Jose Altuve with a changeup in the dirt. His catcher turned around and gave the umpire a pat, then stood up and walked toward Halladay. His teammates walked in toward the mound. It was the last out of the game, and it was the last time that Roy Halladay has been on the mound for the last out of the game. September 14th, you'll note, was last year.

Halladay has been to complete games what Yadier Molina is to catcher defense, what Giancarlo Stanton is to GIFfable home runs. In 2011, Halladay threw more complete games than any other team in the National League. From 2008 through 2011, he threw 35 of them; the San Diego Padres, by comparison, have thrown 35 complete games since 2001. Every spring, a columnist or 10 will write about the sad death of the complete game in baseball, but Roy Halladay has been the faint pulse beeping on the monitor, or perhaps the last uninfected man in a zombie hellscape, or maybe the metaphor that just keeps pushing on and on, and on. Just continuing on. A metaphor that won’t die. A metaphor that doesn’t get tired and quit, but goes the distance. What a durable metaphor.

But now here’s a different Roy Halladay, with no complete games in the 2012 season and only four or five more tries. The complete games are, of course, the least of the matter; more concerning for the Phillies would be the strikeout rate (down about a whiff per nine from his 2008-2011 peak); the walk and home run rates (both up about 25 percent); the velocity (down a mile and a half per hour from last year); and the missed time (his first since 2005). The complete games matter mostly because the complete games reflect a little bit of each of these drop-offs. And the complete games matter because they reflect just what it is we’re seeing. We’re not seeing Roy Halladay going from amazing pitcher to bad pitcher. Not at all. We’re seeing him go from amazing pitcher to really good pitcher. A guy who throws seven or eight innings. We’ve lost a singularity.

The most obvious reason for Halladay’s lack of complete games is that Halladay isn’t throwing nearly as many pitches this year. In 2011, he made 32 starts and threw 110 pitches or more 20 times. He topped 120 pitches six times, and 130 once. This year he has made 21 starts and topped 110 just twice. He hasn’t thrown 120 pitches in a game.

The Phillies are being cautious with him, particularly since he missed June with shoulder soreness. Consider August 10th: Halladay finished the eighth inning against the Cardinals. He had allowed two hits and one run in the game and had retired 12 batters in a row: seven grounders, four strikeouts, and an infield pop-up. He had made the last out the previous inning, so there was no need to pinch-hit for him. He had thrown 99 pitches. The Phillies pulled him.

That wasn’t his first start back from the DL, though. It wasn’t his second. It was his fifth, and he still wasn’t allowed to pass 100 throws. Said Halladay:

(Pitching coach Rich Dubee) has been pretty, not adamant, but he told me how he wants to do it and I understand that... He was not going to let me jump a couple of innings at a time. … Hopefully we get a couple where I get a 4-5 run lead and can try and go out and do it.

The Phillies don’t look to be easing Halladay back into workhorse mode; rather, it looks like they’ll continue to be cautious with him in the tail-end of a lost season. He hasn’t topped 110 pitches in 10 starts since returning from the injury. It is, of course, awfully hard to know what the conversations are like inside the room, or how Halladay’s shoulder looks and feels.

The Phillies’ restrictions on him aren’t everything. Halladay has been, unlike in previous seasons, more hittable as the game has gone one. Well. Halladay has been hit more as the game has gone on. Whether he has actually been more hittable is a leap that we can’t take yet. But from 2008 to 2011, Halladay has been (by opponents’ OPS) almost exactly as effective the third time through the order as the first and second times. This year, he has been hit harder the second time through, and hit much harder the third time through.

First trip through the order
2008: .630
2009: .737
2010: .585
2011: .620
2012: .614

Second trip
2008: .556
2009: .583
2010: .629
2011: .623
2012: .661

Third trip
2008: .665
2009: .656
2010: .727
2011: .444
2012: .801

In fact, the first two times through the order, Halladay has been classic Halladay this year. It is only as the game gets deeper that he becomes ordinary. Consider the sample size, or course: just 149 plate appearances, the instability of which can be seen in the 2010 and 2011 third-trip stats.

That coincides with a bit more lost velocity as the game goes on, especially with his cutter.

CUTTER VELOCITY
  Pitches 1 to 20 Pitches 41-60 Pitches 81 to 100
2011 90.8 90.6 90.3
2012 89.6 88.7 88.2

His two-seamer velocity drop through the game isn't as severe, but it is larger this year (0.7 mph from the first stage to the later one) than last year (0.5). 

The good news is that he’s still very efficient: last year, he threw 14.81 pitches per inning. This year, he's averaging 14.75 pitches per inning—eighth-best among all starters—despite the extra hits and walks mixed in. That efficiency is a big deal. Halladay used to throw a lot of complete games because he could throw a lot of pitches, and because he was good enough to keep his manager’s faith, but also because he was so efficient. Of his 35 complete games from 2008 to 2011, just eight required more than 115 pitches.

So the Roy Halladay who completed eight or nine games a year is probably gone. But he’s still a very good pitcher, probably still a great pitcher, and an efficient pitcher. Some part of his signature skill will probably appear again, like a metaphor introduced at the start of an article that shows up one last time for the kicker.

Sam Miller is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Sam's other articles. You can contact Sam by clicking here

Related Content:  Roy Halladay

4 comments have been left for this article.

<< Previous Article
Premium Article Baseball Therapy: Read... (09/10)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Pebble Hunting: The Ro... (09/05)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Pebble Hunting: The My... (09/12)
Next Article >>
Monday Morning Ten Pac... (09/10)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Premium Article What You Need to Know: August 29, 2014
Premium Article Pebble Hunting: This Article Mentions Fehlan...
Premium Article The Prospectus Hit List: Friday, August 29
Premium Article The Call-Up: Dilson Herrera
Premium Article Minor League Update: Games of Thursday, Augu...
Prospectus Feature: Roast A Parks
Premium Article Raising Aces: Mis-Priced

MORE FROM SEPTEMBER 10, 2012
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: A 2012 Draftee In the ...
Fantasy Article Resident Fantasy Genius: Using ISO to Legiti...
Fantasy Article Value Picks: Second, Short, and Catcher for ...
The Week in Quotes: September 3-9
Premium Article Collateral Damage Daily: Monday, September 1...
Premium Article The Prospectus Hit List: Monday, September 1...
What You Need to Know: Monday, September 10

MORE BY SAM MILLER
2012-09-12 - BP Daily Podcast: Effectively Wild Episode 4...
2012-09-11 - BP Daily Podcast: Effectively Wild Episode 3...
2012-09-11 - BP Unfiltered: 'I Hope I Can Become A Reason...
2012-09-10 - Premium Article Pebble Hunting: Will Roy Halladay Ever Compl...
2012-09-10 - BP Daily Podcast: Effectively Wild Episode 3...
2012-09-10 - BP Unfiltered: Angels in the Outer Field Are...
2012-09-07 - BP Daily Podcast: Effectively Wild Episode 3...
More...

MORE PEBBLE HUNTING
2012-09-17 - Pebble Hunting: Why We Shouldn't Be Shocked ...
2012-09-14 - Pebble Hunting: The Best Story of 2012
2012-09-12 - Premium Article Pebble Hunting: The Mysterious Resurgence of...
2012-09-10 - Premium Article Pebble Hunting: Will Roy Halladay Ever Compl...
2012-09-05 - Premium Article Pebble Hunting: The Rockies' Rotation, Befor...
2012-08-31 - Pebble Hunting: The Best Pitches Thrown This...
2012-08-29 - Premium Article Pebble Hunting: Measuring Hustle
More...

INCOMING ARTICLE LINKS
2012-09-28 - What You Need to Know: Friday, September 28
2012-09-11 - What You Need to Know: Tuesday, September 11