Time To Panic About Doc’s Velocity? – Phillies Nation

Time To Panic About Doc’s Velocity?

Halladay's velocity is down, should we worry? Photo: AP

There is very little to say about Roy Halladay that hasn’t been said. Halladay is the staff ace of a staff with three aces, the go-to arm that is all but guaranteed to keep the Phils in the ballgame. Halladay was again masterful last night in a 5-2 victory. Carson Cistulli at FanGraphs wrote a truly amazing piece examining Doc’s performance last night; Halladay was able to transform himself from a masterful contact artist into a dominant strikeout reliever during his performance against a batter that rarely strikes out and with pitches that weren’t strikes.

One of the concerns heading into 2012 was that Doc’s arm was beginning to show signs of aging. I should clarify: One reporter, Ken Rosenthal, speculated that Halladay was having arm issues. Our own Corey Seidman wrote about this at length, noting that there was about a 2 MPH difference from what Halladay was throwing in camp and what he normally throws but that Ruben Amaro was not concern and neither was Halladay. Deadspin reached Halladay for comment: “Poor reporting on the extreme end of poor reporting. It couldn’t be further from the truth.”

One of the concerns in this young season, however, has been the actual decline in velocity for Halladay. Across Halladay’s repitoire, he has lost some velocity: -2 MPH for his cutter, -1.9 for his four-seamer, and -0.7. At age 34, is it time to hit the panic button?

Emphatically and enthusiastically, no. To the right, you will see a chart of 2011’s top ten pitchers by fWAR. Column A is the the change in velocity in their most thrown pitch. Column B is the change in the velocity in their most thrown pitch. The red boxes are negative changes in velocity, the green boxes are positive increases in velocity. Only two of the top 10 pitchers by WAR last season have seen increases in velocity for either of his two most thrown pitches. Both of those increases are matched by decreases in their other top pitch.

What to make of this? Well, it is very, very early in the season. I tried to look for patterns, but came up empty. Try breaking the pitchers down “Cold Weather” v. “Warm Weather”. Both the increases have happened with two “Warm Weather” pitchers and the biggest decreases were with “Cold Weather” pitchers, but the information provided isn’t a drastic enough change in a large enough sample to be considered significant. A break down of “Over 30” v. “Under 30” doesn’t give us very many clues either.

Let’s look Halladay specific: Halladay threw 22 innings this year in Spring Training with a 5.73 ERA. In 2010, he threw 18 IP with a 4.00 ERA and in 2011, 21.2 IP with 0.42 ERA. It is possible that in relatively the same amount of ST innings in 2012, Halladay hasn’t stretched his arm out fully. But it is more likely that it is a by-product of the young season. While I can’t explain why so many of the top pitchers are experiencing decreases in velocities from last year, it is mildly comforting to know that Doc’s velocity decrease likely has more to do with a young season and is happening with other top pitchers.

What may be an area of slight concern is Halladay’s peripherals against last year, with a high dose of caution for small sample size. Halladay is down nearly 3 Ks/9 IP early in the season and has been remarkably lucky with a .206 BABIP, which is reflected in his xFIP which sits at 3.45 against his actual ERA at 1.17. Is there cause for concern here? Maybe, but probably not. Halladay posted a career high 8.47 K/9 IP last year which, in itself, is 1.5 Ks more per 9 IP than his career average. What is encourage is Halladay’s increased GB rate (up 3.5%) and his lack of flyballs/no home runs. History is on Doc’s side, and not just his own, but from other very good pitchers in recent years. Dave Cameron of FanGraphs lists quite a few examples of pitchers who have experienced similar early season drops that rebounded to have very good seasons.

The Doctor should be fine. We can now focus our attention again on the offense.

Click to comment


  1. Lefty

    April 17, 2012 at 7:57 pm

    Wow Riccaboni,
    I can’t believe you wrote this today. I swear I’ve been thinking about this since last night! My first thought was that since both Lincecum and Halladay’s pitch speeds were down, that maybe the gun at San Francisco was not set properly. I don’t know if this link to the graph will paste properly, I’m hopeful it will, but just in case it doesn’t, it is the second graph down on his pitch FX page. I was slightly alarmed when I saw it earlier today, as it clearly shows his 2012 velocity is down, but then realized that the last several years the velocities tend to start a little lower at the beginning of the season.

    To answer the question in the title of your great posting, IMO the only reason to panic if is he is also experiencing any unusual pain in his arm. But it’s a real eye opener that you demonstrated that all the other pitchers are down as well, thanks for that. Getting back to the gun, now I wonder if they’ve all been re-calibrated. Is that out of the realm of possibility?

    • Ian Riccaboni

      April 17, 2012 at 8:02 pm

      Awesome graph Lefty, thanks! I have to get more comfortable using FG but they have some awesome tools on there.

      To the gun question, David Murphy of the Daily News had some good tweets last night that inspired this. He speculated that PitchFX might be funky right now. Some of the MLB Gameday pitch information isn’t lining up properly, per Murphy, either. This will definitely be something to monitor moving forward for sure.

      • Lefty

        April 17, 2012 at 8:24 pm

        The graphs they put out are awesome, but you have to admit, this one is just a little bit disconcerting too. It’s comforting to read that it appears to be league wide, suggesting something else is happening, be it MLB gameday not recording correctly, guns not working, or – hopefully just that it’s early April.

  2. Chuck A.

    April 17, 2012 at 8:33 pm

    Ok. Great article. Obviously well researched and all probably true enough. But you said yourself “The Doctor should be fine. We can now focus our attention again on the offense.”
    So I don’t think it’s even worth being concerned about, let alone “panicking.”

  3. Brooks

    April 17, 2012 at 9:21 pm

    Doc’s velocity is down. Lee’s does not look great, Hamels is up, Lincecum’s velocity is way off. It will all even out by the end of the season.
    Hey, Joe Blanton looked pretty good, Qualls looks sharp as a tack.. Who knew?

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