2010 Game Recaps

Breaking Down Halladay’s CG Win vs. Astros, 4/11

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.


Release Point

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.



  1. Adam

    April 12, 2010 at 9:26 am

    What astounding graphs!!! This first graph about release point is the most amazing. This guy is essentially a robot. The fact that nearly every pitch comes from the same exact release point is absolutely absurd and the sure key to his success. It is no wonder hitters look completely clueless when the face him. This guy, and I hate to admit this, is far superior to Cliff Lee. Watching Halladay yesterday was like watching Piccasso paint or Mozart compose, Halladay is simply a master at work. The way he stayed composed in a bases loaded no-out jam was simply beautiful. Our resident number two, Cole Hamels, could learn a thing or two from watching Halladay.

  2. Chuck

    April 12, 2010 at 9:52 am

    “This guy, and I hate to admit this, is far superior to Cliff Lee.”

    Why do you hate to admit it? THAT’S what some of us have been trying to say all along…..that Halladay is a much better pitcher than Lee.

    The Phillies are a better team now than they were last year….and the pitching staff is now anchored by this guy.

  3. Manny

    April 12, 2010 at 9:55 am

    Look at that cutter!! So filthy.

  4. Pat Gallen

    April 12, 2010 at 9:56 am

    Robot hits the nail right on the head. Not sure this guy even has a pulse. His demeanor did not change one iota when he had bases loaded, no outs. Does he smile? If the Phillies win will he celebrate or just go watch film after? The dude is insane and I love every minute of it.

    Now, that said, they are the Astros. I want to see him blow away the Braves, Marlins, and other top teams. Then I’ll get super excited.

  5. Chuck

    April 12, 2010 at 9:57 am

    ^ Oh, and I would be willing to bet that Cole Hamels will definitely learn a thing or two from Halladay. Having the Doc here will have such a positive effect on this whole staff.

  6. Chuck

    April 12, 2010 at 10:01 am

    Pat, excellent point. Once he does that to some much better teams….THEN we can all get serious goosebumps. Still, the guy is amazing….and I’ll bet his celebratory mood is a bit restrained after wins. He just figures it’s now time to prepare for the next start.

  7. bfo_33

    April 12, 2010 at 11:21 am

    Love the graphs.
    Admittedly, the Astros are not very good, but the repeatibility of the guy is amazing. Agree with the robot term. Who was the last Phils pitcher with a complete game win not named Lee?

    I know the Phils haven’t played the most competitive schedule yet (ok, they could be the two worst teams in baseball), but you have to like what you’ve seen the first week. A true ace, a patient Rollins, a real #2 hitter, Howard very comfortable at the plate already, a decent pen (Herndon looks like a steal – keeps the ball down),…. Plus, the sign of a good team is maintaining intensity against bad teams.

    On the flip side, the Marlins O doesn’t quit, even when down by 5. I don’t know if they can keep it up, but they seem to be more confident than in years past. Chipper banged up already – over under for games started this year @ 100?

  8. Phylan

    April 12, 2010 at 11:39 am

    I don’t think we have to do the whole “It’s just the Astros” caveat since Halladay dominated the most potent offensive environment in the league for like 8 years.

  9. Phylan

    April 12, 2010 at 11:55 am

    Also, great write-up Paul. If you take a look at all of the pitches he threw in 2009, the consistency and devastation is even more striking: http://pitchfx.texasleaguers.com/pitcher/136880/?batters=A&count=AA&pitches=AA&from=4%2F1%2F2009&to=12%2F10%2F2009

    Above average downward vertical break on every type of fastball, and that nasty curve, though he threw it third most often, generated the most whiffs. The classifications here are kind of wonky but the fourth graph down breaks out the pitches pretty well. Some of those curve balls broke 8 inches further down than gravity carried them.

  10. Chuck

    April 12, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    That’s why when you’re sitting there watching it on TV….. you just shake your head and say, “Wow….that was nasty.”

  11. Brooks

    April 12, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    I too am amazed at not only the graphics but the speed at which they were delivered to us.
    While watching the game, I couldn’t help but think the guy looked to be out of gas on more than one occasion. His mouth was open, he was wiping his brow and he was sweating profusely. No problem getting used to it! He just appeared to be a man near defeat instead of domination.
    What a stud!

  12. Don M

    April 12, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    did somebody really call these graphs “ASTOUNDING GRAPHS!!!” ??

    Anyway, uhmm yea Roy Halladay is super-filthy . . he’s on top of the very short list of: You have ONE game to win.. pick any pitcher in baseball

    Which to me is how you would rank who your BEST pitchers are. .

    and why I dont think Lincecum is near the top yet.. I still put Halladay, Sabathia, and Santana as my top 3

  13. Phylan

    April 12, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    I might actually be 50/50 on Halladay/Lincecum, and behind them, some mixture of Sabathia, Greinke, and Felix Hernandez.

  14. Chuck

    April 12, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    Not sure if I’d put Greinke in that group…..yet. He’s only really has 2 good seasons, last year, of course being exceptional.

    Lincecum, to me, is in the top 5. Along with Halladay, Sabathia, Santana, King Felix and Jon Lester (that’s six….flip one out.)

  15. Andrew

    April 12, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    Tomuch time on your hands.
    He pitched good. He has won ever game he had a chance to. Just like Moyer.

  16. scott tully

    April 12, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    this is a very corey siedmanesk article.

    i like it

  17. Souf Phil

    April 12, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    I know you didn’t create the graphs, but the axis labels on the release point graph don’t make sense. They should probably be Verticle position for the “Y” and Horizontal Position for the “X”.

    Also, I don’t think that all of his pitches are all being released within 1 in^2. I would guess that the units for each axis should be feet (going by the release point height being between 6 and 7), meaning that they were released within about 1 ft^2.

  18. NJ

    April 12, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    Way to raise the bar, lets get more of this stuff. Much better to discuss than griping over who the 25th man is…

  19. Phylan

    April 12, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    @Souf Phil I didn’t notice it at first, but you’re right, the axis labels are messed up. Not Paul’s fault of course. Compare to: http://pitchfx.texasleaguers.com/charts/release.php?1368802010040120100411AAAAA

    The horizontal and vertical axis should be in feet. That doesn’t alter the point though, which is that his release point is very consistent.

  20. therookie300

    April 12, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    Obviously Roy would be tops on my list for a pitcher you would want to throw a must win game for you, but what about Josh Beckett? I would take him in my top 5. He’s done it on some of the biggest stages in the game.

  21. Manny

    April 12, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    To me, it’s:

    1 (tie). Halladay
    1 (tie). Lincecum
    3. Sabathia
    4. Felix
    5. Greinke
    9. CLIFF LEE!

    (haha, woooops)

  22. Paul Boye

    April 12, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    Good call on the axis labels of the first graph. I noticed they were off, but no amount of refreshing cured that and, honestly, I just didn’t patch them up in Photoshop. Maybe I’ll get around to fixing that a little later.

  23. James Kay

    April 12, 2010 at 6:05 pm

    Great Post. The listed Pitch F/X links provide probing insights. Thanks to all who provided them. Now when you compare a Halladay to a Hamels you can analytically see the current gulf that separates their talents. However please understand, I really would like to see Hamels improve to the all star level he is capable of.

  24. George

    April 12, 2010 at 6:40 pm

    These graphs need some refinement. I won’t point out the obvious axis labeling errors on the forst, but to me, the second one looks suspicious, too. The strike zone is wider than it is high, it’s wider than home plate, and no mention is made of the viewing angle (if it’s from the catcher’s position, evrything was on the outside; if it’s the pitcher’s vantage point, than it’s correct, more or less.

    I’m not saying this is a bad approach; I think it’s a good way to see what’s happening. I’m just saying that some improvement is in order.

    It would have been interesting to to see Juan Marichal’s release point graph. Part of his effectiveness was his constant changing of arm angles. There is more than one way to pitch a winning game.

  25. Phylan

    April 12, 2010 at 6:54 pm

    Part of the thing with the strike zone is that it’s normalized — the mlb pitch f/x operators adjust the bottom and top of the strike zone as necessary for each different hitter, so when you chart all the pitches thrown to them on a common graph, you have to normalize all the values for a standard height strike zone.

    And yes, I certainly agree that many pitchers thrive by adjusting their arm angles, but Halladay has essentially three different fastball-family pitches with very different behaviors, and releasing them from the same point makes it impossible for hitters to know what’s coming.

  26. Paul Boye

    April 12, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    Phylan is correct. Differing heights of batters require a normalized zone.

  27. Brian Sr. of CO

    April 14, 2010 at 4:47 am

    Cliff who? No Im just kidding. Sad to see him on the DL for Seattle, but Doc is a flat out BEAST. And this article, and analysis, and graphs, is some of the best I have seen ANYWHERE! GREAT JOB. AWESOME! Also I would agree with Manny. Take Santana out of that top 5 list. He has gone straight down hill since we beat them senseless for 4 HR’s last season. I think we scored 7 on him, the Yankmees scored 9 or 11 on him, the Nationals scored 5 on him. Several surgeries.

  28. Brian Sr. of CO

    April 14, 2010 at 4:51 am

    Actually I do have one thing to say about the conclusion…”Halladay has yet to test the upper echelon of the N.L.’s lineups this season” He was in the AL East, and had a mid to low 2 ERA against the “upper echelon” AL hitters. Sadly, most of the time the AL hitters are better than the AL hitter. Ok, except for maybe Albert Pujols. I would like to see what he can do against Albert. Like it or not, he is the best hitter in baseball.

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