Thursday, February 11, 2016

Five observations: Halladay still not Halladay, but he'll take the results

The results were there, but Roy Halladay remains a work in progress. Here's a detailed breakdown of what worked and what didn't.

Five observations: Halladay still not Halladay, but he'll take the results

Roy Halladay finally can afford himself a little bit of mental breathing room after his first successful outing of 2013. (Alan Diaz/AP)
Roy Halladay finally can afford himself a little bit of mental breathing room after his first successful outing of 2013. (Alan Diaz/AP)

Five thoughts on the Phillies' 2-1 win over the Marlins on Sunday:

1) In 75 innings against starting pitchers this season, the Marlins have scored exactly nine earned runs. That's an ERA of 1.08. They've scored multiple runs against two of the 12 starters they've faced. So those weren't the '27 Yankees that Roy Halladay shut down on Sunday in a 2-1 Phillies win. Nevertheless, the veteran right-hander finally can afford himself a little bit of mental breathing room after his first successful outing of 2013. And you can't underestimate the impact that a relaxed psyche can have on performance. Halladay's next few starts are projected to come against the Cardinals (home, Friday), the Pirates (home, April 24), the Indians (Road, April 30), and the Marlins (home, May 5).

2) Halladay's velocity appears to have leveled off. He's been sitting at 88-90 on his sinker and 87-89 on his cutter, which is well down from where he was a few years ago. That's not to say that his velocity itself is a huge concern: it can't be, because it isn't suddenly going to improve. Plenty of pitchers have been effective at that speed. The reason why we continue to cite his velocity is that it is an objective baseline, and this particular objective baseline tells us that SOMETHING is different with Roy Halladay, and if that "something" is causing his pitches to not traveling as fast as they once did, it could also be causing his pitches to not move as much as they once did, or it could be affecting his command. Again, Halladay showed on Sunday that he can be effective despite that "something." His ability to consistently do so will be a huge factor in the Phillies' attempt to return to the postseason.

3) Here's another objective sign that Halladay is different. MLB's pitchFx system uses algorithms based on the movement and velocity of pitches to identify those pitches, which results in the pitch-by-pitch data you see on its Gameday software. On Sunday, pitchFx identified 14 of Halladay's pitches as change ups, despite the fact that those "change ups" averaged 87.5 MPH. Clearly, those were not change ups. They were either cutters or sinkers. But they were not moving the way Halladay's cutters or sinkers usually move, which is why the algorithm was confused. Make sense? Take a look at Justin Ruggiano's at bat in the seventh inning. With a 2-0 count, Humberto Quintero signals for a cutter and sets up on the outside of the plate from the right-handed hitter. Halladay is trying to throw the pitch at the outer third of the plate, and he and Quintero expect it to cut away from Ruggiano. Instead, the pitch ends up running in on Ruggiano, and he bloops it to right field for a single. Gameday identified that pitch as a change up. I'm almost positive it was a cutter.

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4) Of the Marlins five hits yesterday, four of them came via right-handed hitters. On the season, righties are hitting 10-for-31 with four walks, a double and three home runs against Halladay. That's a .323/.400//645 line for a guy whose career line against righties is .246/.285/.364. Three of those four extra base hits have come off his cutter. He has only gotten one ground ball versus four fly balls and one line drive with the cutter.

5) There were plenty of reasons to be pleased with Halladay's outing on Sunday. He had much better command of his curveball than his first couple of starts, when the inability to command the pitch contributed to his high pitch counts. He is getting results with his sinker. He seemed to have better success pitching down in the zone, which helps explain the ground balls that he induced. Still, Halladay remains a work in progress. His next start, against the Cardinals, will provide a stiffer test.

For an alternate view on Halladay's production over the years and how it compares to other veteran pitchers, check out this interactive feature on our new website.

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