This has been a very confusing and frustrating season for Roy Halladay. After posting six straight seasons of 31 starts, 220 innings, and at least 6 WAR, Halladay is on pace to finish with 163 innings over 25 starts and, the way he has thrown lately, perhaps not even 3 WAR to his line. Many of his numbers are where we would expect them to be, but his ability to strand runners has regressed to the mean and his home run rate is over twice what it was a year ago. Put those two ingredients together and it’s understandable how the man whose ERA and FIP haven’t been above 2.79 and 3.01, respectively, since 2008 suddenly has respective marks 4.40 and 3.67.
He hasn’t felt right, health-wise, all season, and hasn’t been able to get in a groove after returning from his recent disabled list stint. He has certainly shown flashes of the Halladay from 2007-11, but in his 13 starts since returning, he has six good to great games, two mediocre games (the literal quality start of 6 IP, 3 ER), and five absolute clunkers. At a time when the Phillies desperately need the Halladay they know, he is pitching inconsistently, and has fallen into the boom-or-bust category. It’s almost as if he and Kyle Kendrick have a Freaky Friday playing out.
Unfortunately, Halladay didn’t deliver in a game that may have broken the Phillies season. Now four games back with only 10 left to play, it will take a minor miracle for the Phillies to find themselves playing in the wild card play-in game.
The Phillies trailed the Cardinals by three games entering Saturday afternoon’s game with the Braves and, on paper, had the advantage in the starting pitching department. Mike Minor has been better of late, but even with his poor run prevention this season, it’s tough to give a pitching advantage to the opposition when Roy Halladay is on the hill. That advantage was quickly eliminated, however, when Halladay went walk, single, ground out, single, homer, strikeout in the first inning. Michael Bourn was erased on the basepaths after a leadoff walk, but it was clear from the get-go that Doc didn’t have his best stuff. Teams typically have to get to pitchers like him early on, when he is still figuring out the zone and getting a sense of his ‘stuff” on the day, but the Braves weren’t even done after Freddie Freeman‘s three-run homer.
Halladay walked Brian McCann to lead off the second inning — meaning the guy that rarely walks anyone walked the leadoff batter in the first two frames. After striking out Jose Constanza and Minor, he allowed a single to Bourn and walked Prado to load the bases. The feeling was ominous at this point, and fears were realized mere moments later when Jason Heyward cleared the bases with a three-run double. Halladay was done after the hit, allowing six runs on his own over 1.2 innings, and getting charged for a seventh run when Chipper Jones doubled in Heyward off of Jeremy Horst.
His end line — 1.2 IP, 5 H, 7 ER, 3 BB, 3 SO — produced a Game Score of 17. Game Score is a stat created by Bill James that attempts to measure the overall quality of a start on a 1-100 scale. Halladay doesn’t usually dip that low. Last season, his lowest score was 31, in a 9-0 loss to the Brewers. The year before that, his lowest was 26, in the clunker against the Red Sox. In 2009, his lowest score was 25. In 2008, his low was 39. It’s pretty tough to score below 20 on this scale, and Halladay is clearly a stranger to those types of results. However, they aren’t foreign this season, as his low entering tonight was also 17, and it also came in a game against the Braves. Halladay has struggled to prevent runs this season, but even more so against the division rival Braves.
The Phillies will look to win the series on Sunday and once again get to three games above .500. The season has been very disappointing, but their post-all star break performance has been encouraging to the point that they actually had a legitimate shot at making the playoffs entering that Houston series. After losing three of the four to the lowly Astros, the Phillies almost had to win every game left on the schedule to have a fighting chance, and Halladay getting shelled in this crucial game, with the offense failing to show up as well, is a microcosm of this season.