Roy Halladay dealt the first of what will, hopefully, be many complete games in his tenure here in Philadelphia. He held a weak Houston lineup to just one run and seven hits in his nine innings, permitting no walks and striking out eight. His outing needs no additional superlatives; it was clearly a performance the team needed while being shut down – for the most part – by Roy Oswalt and three Astros relievers.
Let’s dig a little deeper and take a look at Halladay’s start on a new level. Special thanks to BrooksBaseball for their Pitch F/x tool.
See that tight cluster of markers? That’s consistency, friends. That’s four-to-five different pitch types all being released within one square inch of any other pitch. A big key to the effectiveness and guile of a given pitcher – especially a starter, as the lineup gets multiple chances to see him – is consistency in arm angle and release point. With that pitch arsenal and speeds ranging from 75 to 95 MPH, Halladay most definitely had his mechanics in order today.
As an aside, the axis labels are incorrect. They are corrected in the comments.
Versus Lefty Batters
Michael Bourn, Cory Sullivan, Geoff Blum and Kaz Matsui faced Halladay a combined 14 times Sunday and collected three of the team’s seven hits. In case you have difficulty distinguishing the pitch types listed above, the pitches he threw to lefties were as follows:
Four-seam fastballs (13), changeups (6), curveballs (3), cutters (16) and two-seam fastballs (9).
No pitch of Halladay’s really flies truly straight, but let’s write off his four-seamers as “straight” pitches for a moment. The breakdown of the remaining pitches finds 15 pitches breaking away from lefties (changeups and two-seamers) and 19 breaking in toward them (curves and cutters). Additionally, you can see from the plot that almost everything was on the inner half. Halladay gave no ground to lefties, and that made plenty of sense, considering the four batters that faced him from the left side weren’t exactly a murderer’s row (combined career .323 OBP, .378 SLG). Good work on the lefties, despite the noticeable lack of Lance Berkman in the Houston lineup.
What are you seeing here? This is the average amount of movement for each of Halladay’s pitch types. Green is his four-seamer, red is the change, blue is the cutter, yellow is the curve and orange is the two-seamer. Imagine the x-axis (bottom line) of the graph at 0.0 is where the catcher is positioned behind the plate. The top of each colored line is the release point of the pitch, and the curve of the line is the break from release until it reaches the strike zone.
By my rough calculation, the cutter averaged about 1.6 feet of movement, the most of any pitch type. Everything else averaged more than a foot of movement on its own, but the cutter clearly had plenty of slip. Of course, this graph is only measuring horizontal movement, so the curveball seems less dynamic on this graph than it actually was.
After this quick overlook, the conclusion is pretty simple. Aside from what you already know – that Roy Halladay is a darn fine pitcher – the keys to his success were in full bloom in today’s start against the Astros. Varied pitch types, an aggressive approach against lefties and plenty of movement on every pitch ensured that Halladay kept the Astros hitters off balance and, for the most part, off the basepaths and scoreboard. It’s early, and Halladay has yet to test the upper echelon of the N.L.’s lineups this season, but if these first two starts are any indication, Halladay’s stuff should be able to handle any National League lineup this season.