Halladay’s Future – Phillies Nation
Analysis

Halladay’s Future

Roy Halladay pitched relatively well on Sunday, scattering five hits and a single run over eight innings of work. He worked quickly, needing just 87 pitches over those eight frames, and threw twice as many strikes as balls. Doc also kept the ball on the ground, generating nearly 50 percent grounders on a day when he managed just two strikeouts.

Two schools of thought were formed after he exited the game. Some fans instantly wrote his performance off as being a byproduct of facing the punchless Marlins. Other fans took this as a big step in getting back on track.

As per usual, we’re looking at a little from Column A and a little from Column B.

Halladay no doubt threw better on Sunday but he still made several mistakes that an actual major league offense — you know, one that doesn’t include Placido Polanco and Greg Dobbs as the bread in a Giancarlo Stanton sandwich — would have exploited. Though the results didn’t bear this out, he struggled with both command and control during the first few frames, and if he makes some of those same mistakes against the Cardinals this coming weekend, we’re again looking at a potential 4 IP, 9 H, 6 ER outing.

Perhaps that is part of his current growing pains in adjusting to his lesser ‘stuff’ but it’s something he will need to figure out quickly. He adjusted on the fly, incorporated his curveball far more, and by the latter stages of the game had seemingly settled into a nice rhythm. He pitched well, but if you remove the end results and focus on the process this game wasn’t really that far off of his last start against the Mets.

However, maybe all he needed was a solid results-based outing to get some of his mojo back.

As fans in Column B were quick to point out, Halladay has repeatedly said that he feels fine, physically, and that he’s struggling with the mental side of things right now. I’m no psychologist but perhaps throwing eight effective innings of one-run ball was enough to prove to himself that he could still get batters out and go deep into games. With that reinforced knowledge perhaps his confidence grows.

We can’t simply discount this start because of who he faced but we also can’t assume he is anywhere near back yet. This may have been a step in the right direction but we’re dealing with a pretty big staircase. Getting Halladay right is a Chrysler Key to the Season and Sunday’s outing moved the needle in the positive direction.

However, during each of his three starts this season I have ruminated on his future. I’m trying to focus on his present and what he can do to get back on track but what happens to Halladay after this season has the potential to represent one of the most compelling free agent situations in recent history. Simply put, he is a big unknown this season and that carries material financial implications heading into next season.

Halladay is a Hall-of-Fame pitcher and the best of this era. He easily outpitched his $20 million contract in 2010 and 2011 and even last season his peripheral statistics and 2.4 WAR in ~150 innings belied a better pitcher than his 4.49 ERA. He wasn’t worth $20 million but he pitched at a 3 WAR pace which is worth $14-$15 million.

On the other hand, I used the term ‘3 WAR pace’ because he missed time with an injury last season, and at age 36 his likelihood for injuries will only increase.

On top of that, nobody has any idea what to expect when he pitches, and it isn’t as if the range of possibilities is 8 IP-1 R to 6 IP-3 R. As we saw in spurts last season and against the Braves and Mets, Halladay has very little room for error right now, and when he makes mistakes the games can get out of hand quickly.

Other pitchers have lost their best stuff and made adjustments late in their careers but Halladay’s situation feels different. It doesn’t seem like a physical ailment that requires more time for him to properly recover. It isn’t a dead arm phase where his velocity will return in a couple of weeks. It’s as if, almost overnight, Halladay went from the elite of the elite to a decent #3 starter, without any real explanation whatsoever.

During spring training and in his first two starts it seemed like he tried to pitch like his old self without the same ‘stuff’ that made the old self so effective. He wasn’t hitting spots, the pitches felt flat, and he did un-Halladay-like things like elevating changeups. He looked like the Halladay that initially struggled in his first couple of years in Toronto and not the guy baseball fans fell in love with.

Sunday’s start against the Marlins saw him make proper adjustments later in the game, and ironically, I thought his best inning in terms of hitting spots and putting the ball where he wanted was the inning in which he surrendered the tying run. From that point on, he looked confident and threw purposeful pitches in effective spots with accuracy. The overall results aren’t what should produce confidence — his last couple of innings should have signaled a change for the better. He can get by with lesser stuff if he pitches that way.

But with all these question marks, one major question is what happens to him from here.

Halladay has repeatedly said that he wants to finish his career in Philadelphia, but his value isn’t as cut-and-dried if he has the same name on the back of his jersey without the same abilities. Would he take a significant paycut to stay in Philadelphia? Would he sign a multi-year deal with low base salaries that are loaded with incentives? Would a team like the Rays prove attractive with, say, a 1 yr/$12 million deal?

It’s obviously still early to appropriately answer these questions, but I can’t help but think about them each time he toes the rubber.

It once seemed inconceivable that his 2014 option wouldn’t automatically vest. Now we’re dealing with the issue of whether the Phillies would even want him back next season. As I see it there are three different scenarios that could play out. He could rebound and remain effective, throwing something like 190 innings with a 3.40 ERA and 3/1 K/BB ratio. He could re-injure himself, thus lending some more credence to the idea that there are physical maladies at work. Or he could continue to pitch in a boom and bust fashion, with fans and teammates never really knowing which version is going to show up on a start-to-start basis.

That first scenario Halladay is still worth guaranteed money over multiple years. That second scenario Halladay is worth a flier on a deal loaded with incentives. That third scenario Halladay is puzzling, because his age should dictate a decline but many teams may feel they have identified a singular flaw and can fix him and return him to his Cy Young Award form.

For the Phillies, the ideal situation is that Halladay identifies his own flaws and incorporates fixes this season in order to help them get back to the playoffs. Sunday’s start against the Marlins had more positives than negatives but the true test will come in his next start, when he opens the game with the approach he took in the latter innings against the Fish. It’s still far too early to speculate on how he’ll pitch and what he’ll make next year, but this weekend’s start against St. Louis could go a long way towards shaping his 2013 campaign.

22 Comments

22 Comments

  1. Larry

    April 15, 2013 at 8:48 am

    I would like to hear your thoughts on Cole Hamels. Here is a guy who signed a huge contract and is currently the worst pitcher the Phillies have on their squad.

    • Eric Seidman

      April 15, 2013 at 8:50 am

      Don’t worry about Hamels. He’ll be fine. He pitched very well on Saturday. Too early in the season to throw around terms like ‘worst pitcher’.

      • Larry

        April 15, 2013 at 8:55 am

        I was just going by stats. Currently, he is the worst pitcher stat-wise on the Phillies. For the past two years, Hamels has proven he cannot handle high pressure situations. His two losses came against rivalries. He currently is 0-2 with an ERA close to 8 with a no decision as well. Since he is in the Ace position, he is considered a Cy Young contender, which he will not win this year. Once someone gets on base against Hamels, there is at least a 75% chance he will give up a run, and a 50% chance he will give up the long ball to another batter that same inning.

      • Eric Seidman

        April 15, 2013 at 9:01 am

        Sometimes great pitchers have poor starts. Hamels could very well win the CYA in spite of his first two starts. Your numbers are hyperbole at this stage of the game.

      • Jeff of Nova

        April 15, 2013 at 11:09 am

        Larry,

        Have you every been judged on 2 days of work? The “worst” pitcher is crazy and pulling stats from 2 starts? He pitched great on Saturday go no run support. He will be the Cole we always know. I personally think he was just pressing too much, being the “Ace” and all

        Back to the main topic, Roy looked good against a AAA team, but maybe that is what he needed to get confidence and get his stuff situated

      • hk

        April 15, 2013 at 4:27 pm

        “For the past two years, Hamels has proven he cannot handle high pressure situations.”

        What high pressure situations over the past two years are you referencing? Were there any high pressure situations last year? Were there any during the 2011 regular season when the team won the division by 13 games.

        * During the 2012 regular season, Hamels was 6-3 with a 2.80 ERA against teams with a winning record.
        * During the 2011 playoffs, Hamels pitched 6 innings of shutout ball at St. Louis.
        * During the 2011 regular season, Hamels was 6-3 with a 2.40 ERA against teams with winning records.

    • Dave Lerch

      April 15, 2013 at 6:49 pm

      I’m with you. I think Cole is a 15-16 game winner at best and will never be elite. Unless you consider a 15 game winner an elite pitcher. I don’t. Cole is good, but not great and I don’t believe he has what it takes to be great. In any event; way overpaid for his #2 #3 status.
      In regard to Halladay, I think he will be good enough to solidify an ok starting staff, but, he’ll never be the elite pitcher he once was.

  2. rellis

    April 15, 2013 at 9:08 am

    I cannot believe someone says Cole Hamels can’t handle high pressure situations. What Cole Hamels have they been watching? Great players go through slumps for whatever reason and I am sure this is eating Cole up inside. He will be fine. Wasn’t this Cliff Lee at the beginning of last season?

    • Mike D

      April 15, 2013 at 9:41 am

      Lee had a great start in 2012. Had no support and should have had at least 5 or 6 wins to start the season. As far as Hamels, I see this as 2009 all over again. Even though he had a quiet off season this time he is now the Ace. He should be. But I do not think mentally he can handle the Ace status. Some guys just can’t be the number 1 mentally even though they have all the tools and talent. Look at the Captain across the street. I fear it is the same for the flyboys.

      • schmenkman

        April 15, 2013 at 10:32 am

        Was Saturday’s start (6 IP, 3 hits, 1 run) just a fluke then?

        This kind of pop psychology where we try to get into somebody’s head and try to imagine what they’re thinking or feeling, all based on just two games, is just ludicrous IMO.

    • G7

      April 15, 2013 at 6:49 pm

      Obviously a Phillies hater..

  3. Chuck A.

    April 15, 2013 at 9:11 am

    Seriously?? Cole Hamels is the worst pitcher on the team?? Two clunkers to start the season…followed by a very nice game over the weekend…and people are ready to write him off?? This fanbase never ceases to amaze me sometimes…

    • rellis

      April 15, 2013 at 9:15 am

      It’s always that way with Cole in this town. I just don’t get it. What’s remarkable is that he re-signed with the team and actually loves the fans and the city.

      • Chuck A.

        April 15, 2013 at 9:52 am

        I remember going to an early-season game a few years back (can’t remember the year – 2010 maybe?). Anyway, it’s a windy, cold-ass April night and Cole gets shelled by the Mets. The booing that took place was really out of control.

  4. George

    April 15, 2013 at 10:38 am

    I’m not sure how thoughtful conjecture about Roy Halladay generated a raft of opinionated and somewhat prejudicial Hamels comments, but I’ll play along with it a little. As far as not performing under pressure, it’s pretty obvious some have forgotten that year Hamels won two MVPs in the postseason. As far as this being a repeat of 2009, I don’t see how a two game sample can be extrapolated to that so easily. (I say “two game” because #3 was actually pretty darned good).

    I’d still be inclined to worry more about Halladay than about Hamels. Roy is older, coming off a miserable spring, has lost velocity, changed his mechanics, and is showing command troubles, even in this latest start. After the later uinnings yesterday, I’m still not ready to write him off, but he’s probably going to be the biggest question mark on the Phils roster until he gets through quite a few more starts. Enough of the Hamels nonsense.

  5. wbramh

    April 15, 2013 at 11:12 am

    I think there was a time in Hamels’ past when he got rattled easily but he’s obviously overcome that problem – and I say that as someone who had stupidly given up on him a few years back.
    (I apologize to my smarter nephew every time I see him).

    Cole Hamels will be fine. I’m less sure about the team scoring runs behind him a la Cliff”s recent problems. At least it was nice seeing some stellar plays in the field to back him up – including a terrific catch by Nix and some nice stops by Howard. More of those won’t hurt any pitcher’s confidence.

  6. Kehn Bland

    April 15, 2013 at 11:14 am

    This is a tough subject for within 24 hours of a truly joyous occasion. That’s as close as I want to get to calling Doc’s effort yesterday one consisting of definitely some positives, but also some stuff on the other side. But the fact of the matter is that during whatever label you want to put Doc’s phase that is, his future is his next start. There’s a world of difference between St. Louis and Miami. It will be quite a while before a more focussed position can be even guessed at as to what the marketplace dictates. However, if the subject persists, and it gets boring, one can still apply a goodly number of similarities to what’s going down with another one time as good as there is in Tim Lincecum. I guess they don’t make number 5 starters like they used to. If the number 5 comparison lingers. We’ll see.

  7. Lefty

    April 15, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    There is a simple solution to all of this. Well…, not exactly simple to achieve, but a solution nonetheless. Winning a championship is the repetitive message I keep hearing out of Doc’s quotes.

    Let’s win a championship, and let Roy retire a happy man.

  8. Chris

    April 15, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    Boy the measuring stick has really been lowered on what is considered a great start. I don’t think we can read too much into Hamels start on Saturday. And I don’t agree that he pitched great. He walked three in 6 innings, and again, it was the Marlins. They have a glorified AAA lineup. I think you throw this start away by Halladay too. Let’s see how they both fare against the Cardinals. If they pitch well, then maybe they are getting back on track. If they don’t, they both need to see a shrink. They can’t and won’t always have Ruiz back there catching for them.

    • George

      April 15, 2013 at 4:47 pm

      Yes, and he gave up one entire run. If you begin using walks as your sole determining factor, you’d better call some no-hitters bad jobs. Sometimes the pitchers of those games have walked 6-7, and some of them have been against teams as bad as the Fish.

      Besides, I don’t think “well” and “pretty darned good” come even close to “great.”

  9. TheDipsy

    April 15, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    Damn that was a long article. This is what I have questions about – and they stem from two different opinions from seemingly knowledgeable people.

    Darren Daulton says that Halladay arm position had dropped and that this USUALLY, in his experience, means that a player’s shoulder is “barking”. Thus Daulton, as I understood in on 97.5, seemed to be alluding that Doc might still be hurting.

    Joe Kerrigan, a pitching coach, says that Roy’s arm position had dropped also. But he said that “there’s nothing you can really do about that”. he said that the drop in arm slot takes some his fast ball and cutter.

    “Nothing you can do about that”? Hey, how about showing him a tape and telling him to keep his damn arm up?

    Well, that option is so obvious that I am assuming that it has already been done and that Roy just doesn’t want to, or can’t, throw over the top anymore. For whatever reason. Id you accept this is true than one can conclude that he ain’t never gonna be the guy he was. Or he’s hurt and not telling anyone.

    Either way, thats why you don’t sign older pitchers to really long term contracts. This is Roy’s last season here unless he takes money befitting the pitcher he has probably become or becoming.

    I will continue to root for him. Go Phils!

    The Dipsy

    • George

      April 15, 2013 at 4:37 pm

      I, too, have wondered about that arm slot thing, although I don’t concern myself much with Daulton or Kerrigan.

      I would suppose that videos have been analyzed and the old slot attempted. A person would have to be a complete idiot not to at least try going back, and because I don’t think Halladay or Dubee are stupid, my guess is that it just doesn’t work anymore. Why is anybody’s guess, although arms do just get old.

      My own feeling is that Halladay can still succeed once he gets the hang of pitching with a different plan than what he’s been using for his entire career. Other sources say he still has good movement, and that’s always more important than pure speed. Any change a person experiences takes time to get used to, but his later innings vs. the Marlins seemed a step in the right direction.

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