Pitches Piling Up for Halladay

halladay 0411 2010.jpg

Roy Halladay threw 132 pitches in a complete-game loss last night to the Pirates.

That’s a lot of pitches.

Too many pitches? It’s at least worth asking.


  • It’s one pitch short of his career high, which he set last season.
  • Halladay is averaging 111.8 pitches per game through nine starts. That ranks third in baseball behind Ubaldo Jimenez (112.1) and Justin Verlander (112.0).
  • Halladay’s 111.8 pitches ranks 15th amongst 471 pitchers that averaged 100 pitches per start from 2000-10. Halladay’s previous high? He averaged 107.4 pitches per game in 2007, which ranked 74th.  He also averaged 107.2 pitches in 2008 (77th), 106.1 pitches in 2009 (120th), 103.6 pitches in 2002 (233rd), 100.8 in 2003 (411th) and 100.7 in 2005 (421st).
  • Halladay threw 3,330 pitches in 31 starts in 2007. He would throw 3,466 pitches in 31 starts at his current pace.
  • He threw a career-high 3,627 pitches in 36 starts in 2003. He would throw 4,024 at his current pace if he started 36 games this season. It should be noted he threw just 2,053 pitches in 2004, when he spent time on the disabled list with tendinitis in his right shoulder and fatigue in his right shoulder. (He threw just 1,912 pitches in 2005, but that’s because he fractured his left tibia.)

Halladay is a work horse. He prepares hard — the guy might be a robot — to pitch deep into every game. But how much is too much, even for a guy like Halladay? The Phillies not only want Halladay fresh this season, they want him fresh in 2013 and possibly beyond.


Bill Baer from Baseball Daily Digest took exception to how I introduced John Dewan‘s findings about Chase Utley being a better player than Albert Pujols over the past five seasons. Baer assumed that I’m one of those crusty ball writers (get off my lawn, kids!) who hates sabermetrics.

In reality, I’ve often used sabermetrics since I started covering the Phillies in 2003. I’ve used stuff from Dewan in the past. I’ve used stuff from Bill James and Baseball Info Solutions. I extensively quoted Baseball ProspectusJoe Sheehan about Ryan Howard‘s strikeout totals being largely irrelevant in a story I wrote for The Philadelphia Inquirer in 2008. The story got me a book published. And in that book I leaned heavily on sabermetrics to help pick my all-time Phillies team. I find sabermetrics very useful. I like sabermetrics. I really do. But why all the sensitivity about any criticism of them?

Bill Simmons wrote an interesting story recently about hopping on board the sabermetric bandwagon. In it, he mentions Carl Crawford‘s UZR since 2003: 14.7, 23.3, 15.5, 9.4, minus-1.2, 19.1 and 17.6. Like Simmons pointed out, what happened to Crawford in 2007? Did he play on one leg? The point I’m making here is the same point I made in the post about Utley vs. Pujols: Sabermetrics are very useful, but they are not the Gospel. They are a piece to the puzzle. Crunch the numbers and use your eyes — then make the best decision possible. I’ve read that people are surprised Pat Burrell‘s production dropped so remarkably since he left the Phillies in 2008 because his metrics were so impressive in seasons past. Well, I wasn’t surprised. I watched him play every day.

Sometimes the numbers just don’t jive with what is happening on the field. (You can’t tell me Crawford suddenly became a poor outfielder in 2007.) And sometimes it’s OK to acknowledge that.


The Zo Zone is on Facebook and Twitter. His Phillies book “The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly” is available online, and at Delaware Valley bookstores!


I am a little worried about Doc’s workload, but I agree 100% with phan about last night’s game.

Love Charlie, but he definitely should have pulled Halladay for a PH in the 7th. We get that he’s a horse. Be curious to know what the team’s scoring average is when he pitches – stands to reason they are a little more motivated to put up big numbers when Kendrick and Moyer are on the mound.

In order to PH for Doc in the 7th you need two things: Confidence in your Bullpen to hold the pirates and confidence in your PH to get home a run. Obviously CHarlie didn’t have confidence that both of these would happen. While we have a bench, it hasn’t done anything this year as pinch hitters. The Pen is best known for not pitching then getting batters out. No wonder CHarlie stayed with Doc.

I didn’t think it was such a good idea for Charlie to have left Halladay in yesterday’s game. I think the he should’ve taken him out in the 7th. Its only May and even though it was only the lowly Pirates, we don’t want to burn out our ace.

I don’t question Charlie a lot, and I really don’t have an issue with the number of pitches because Halladay is a horse. But Charlie should have pinch hit for him in the 7th inning, with one out and a runner on first. Bunting the player over just gets the runner in scoring position with two outs, not even considering the fact that it failed anyway. Why bother having a bench and a bullpen?Charlie messed that one up, IMO.

Obviously, Halladay is facing a different set of circumstances than he faced pitching in the DH-world of the American League. The discussion should center on whether leaving him in was their best option and not on the number of pitches he threw.

Not only did bunting in that situation (or attempting the bunt) try to move a runner, it also greatly lessened the possibility of an inning-ending double play, and some managers see that as a greater benefit than giving up an out or removing an effective pitcher.

This is likely not the last time such a situation will arise. Halladay will pitch a lot of low-run games, as he is often matched-up with the opposition’s ace. Sit back, relax and watch the guy work. Worrying over potential arm trouble or counting pitches only makes a difficult decision more so.

Funny how, on the heels of the tributes to the late Robin Roberts that we are suddenly so concerned with “burning out our ace.” Well – some of you are concerned, but not me.

I’ve never been a fan of pitch counts. But I totally disagree with Charlie leaving Doc in so he “could get the win, if we rallied”. Well, we didn’t rally. And, until the rest of the rotation is more consistant, we need Doc’s arm healthy. Charlie is literally giddy over all of Doc’s success. But I can’t help but wonder, if a pitch count of 120+ every game, will come back to bite us later in the season.

muleman, the decision about whether or not to pinch hit for Halladay in the 7th inning has nothing to do with pitch counts. It is all about strategy. I get your point about eliminating the double play and being able to keep your pitcher in the game, but I think the ‘book’ there says to pinch hit and use your bullpen. It’s not like they’ve been overworked lately and it IS the Pirates. This is their innings pitched in the last week…..
Bastardo 1
Durbin 2.1
Baez 3
Romero 1.2
Herndon 1
Contreras 1.2

Even the Best starting pitcher in baseball, is HUMAN. As such, there are only so many EFFECTIVE pitches in that right arm for a season. Charlie needs to economize a little more NOW to preserve Halladay for the playoffs ( okay so I’m assuming).
Charlie also needs to start using the Bullpen guys like Herndon and Bastardo and Durbin a little more in tougher situations. Otherwise, Baez, Contreras and Romero will be spent by the time September gets here. And Btw, if Lidge can’t pitch, lets get Mathieson up here for the 7th or 8th inning. And that, he’s too young nonsense is just THAT, nonsense. The guy is a 26 or 27 yo closer and throws 96 to 98 mph with an improving slider. Ruben, wake up before it’s too late .

Todd, numbers don’t “jive” or “not jive.” The correct term is “jibe.”
I’ve seen this misuse before, but you are supposed to be a professional.

That said, I don’t think pitch counts are very relevant when Halladay is pitching, unless he’s throwing 130 EVERY start, which he isn’t. Most of his games have been around 1o5-115. There’s not an ace pitcher alive who isn’t called on from time to time to make a few more pitches, pitch on short rest, or go the distance in what ultimately turns out to be a loss. I think he can handle this workload even with a few extra pitches from time to time.

You should work out his “average pitches per game” for the first eight starts, and you’ll probably see that last night was an anomaly.

I agree with you about the sabermetrics…it is another useful tool. People who get all sensitive over that sort of thing are closed-mind and usually wrong. I think more information gives a more accurate picture. But you know, small minds have a smaller capacity for knowledge and analysis ;o)


phan: I thought I made it clear that the decision to not pinch hit for Halladay was because Charlie was going to bunt. Why waste a pinch hitter to bunt? Pitchers are supposed to be able to get that done, but don’t get me started on that topic.

gmotisher: Nice work on jibe. You’re right. Another misuse appeared in the Inquirer today with “I could care less” which actually means I do care.

I think we saw tonight that using the bullpen can sometimes explode in a manager’s face. Sometimes your starter is the best available option, and sadly, not enough managers know enough to use it.

dolfanman: Go back and look at innings pitched by other “humans” 20 and 30 years ago and tell me how different they are than humans today. Halladay isn’t like the rest of the modern-era pitchers, and pitch counts and innings don’t apply.

Yes, there are twice as many teams today as there were in 1950 0r 1960 but there is also twice as many Americans from which to draw to say nothing of more Latin Americans and what Asians add to the mix. In the 1960s pitchers were getting ahead of hitters, that if memory serves me correctly a .301 average won the AL batting crown one year. And memory does not fail me, the 10th best hitter in the AL was at .290 or .291 But in 1969, the mound was lowered by 6 inches and the strike zone was decreased.

pherris: There are also a lot of other sports that expanded during that time period too. Athletes are going to basketball, football and soccer rather than spend years in the minors.
Yaz led the AL with a .301 BA in 1968, but he also won the Triple Crown that year, and it was sandwiched around years of players in the .330s, including Rose who led the NL with a .335 average – so what’s your point?

Rod Carew hit .364 in in ’74 and .388 in ’77 to win the batting title.

And once again, today (with me in the stands) Joe Blanton was taken out of a game that he should have stayed in to yield to a bullpen that coughed up the lead. I’m tired of pitch counts and managing for the worst case scenario. Sometimes your starter is the best choice and if he has a lead, like Blanton did today, why go to the pen?

Yaz won the triple crown in ’67. Still …

Carew had those good years after the mound was lowered. My point is obvious.

The last big push for complete games was Billy Martin in early ’80s with ‘A’s. How did that work other than blowing out the arms of a complete pitching staff?

And Alou hit .342 in ’66 to win the NL title, Davis hit .346 to win the ’62 title, Clemente hit .351 and Cash hit .361 in 1961, so your point is moot.

pherris: Lowering the mound was supposed to benefit the pitchers, you nitwit. How do you explain averages in the .350s and .360s winning recent batting titles? Why am I even engaging you in this? You’re a dope.

muleman: I am a dope? I am a nitwit? Lowering the mound was suppose to aid the pitchers? Did the same television evangelist who taught you “intelligent design” also teach you physics?

muleman: I am a dope? I am a nitwit? Lowering the mound was suppose to aid the pitchers? Did the same television evangelist who taught you “intelligent design” also teach you physics?

pherris, you didn’t have to drive home the point that you are a nitwit by telling us twice. It’s a given.
But muleman, explain how lowering the mound and shrinking the strike zone benefits the pitcher. I believe the overall ERA in MLB went up by a full run in 1969.

The lowering of the mounds in 1969 was in direct response to Denny McLain’s 31 wins, 1.96 ERA in 1968 combined with the fact that Yaz won the batting championship in ’68 while batting only .301. The owners, etc wanted to ensure a more exciting game to retain fan interest and therefore lowered the mound to help (get ready Mule) Hitters against what was viewed as over domminant pitching. THat said, Pherris is still a pain in the ***

While McClain’s season was stellar, Gibson’s season in 1968 might have been the best pitching performance ever.
The American League in the late ’60’s suffered from being late to the game in breaking the color barrier and it was reflected in the stats. Unfortunately, the product was bad and it was also reflected in attendance, so they eventually decided to go with the DH. The worst decision in the history of baeball, IMO.

phan52: you too with the personal attacks? I try to give a civilized response to a poster’s here incessant whining about pitch counts and how baseball was in the days of yore. Somehow that makes me a nitwit? Nooooooo, I finally get it, you occupied the next desk in the course on “intelligent design”. My problem is how did you miss the physics lesson explaining how lowering the pitching mound helps pitchers?
fij: you always post with such certitude and dismissiveness. The only reason the mound was lowered was because of Denny McLain won 31 games and Carl Yastremski leading the league with a .301 average? How about Bob Gibson’s 1.12 ERA in 1968. How about Yaz being the 10th best hitter in the AL with a .278 average? How about the rule requiring that the mound be 15 inches in heighth and pitcher laden teams building mounds of up to 20 inches?

how about you check stats? Yaz won the batting crown in ’68 with a .301. Yes, feller had a great year and his ERA was 1.12 and this added to the reason, but a 30+ w season by a pitcher who wasn’t considered great (like Feller was) was, IMHO the straw that broke the mound’s back. In any case, it was lowered, it helped pitchers, it is what we have in todays game. As for pitch count, we all agree that the game was better and more interesting without it. But, it is what we have and we can’t go back in time

fij: what in the world are you talking about? Feller didn’t have a great year, Gibson did. What is this “we all can agree” garbage? Your lack of baseball knowledge shines through and also accentuates the weakness of the sabermetrics gospel.

When did Bob Feller enter the conversation? f-i-j, anybody who knows baseball history will tell you that Bob Gibson’s season in 1968 was far superior to McLain’s. He played in a much more difficult, balanced league. His ERA in relation to the rest of the NL was ridiculous. The guy threw 13 complete game shutouts including five in a row, for Christ’s sake.
And pherris, it is really ironic that you can accuse somebody else for their certitude and dismissiveness. You need some mirrors in your house.

Sorry, I ment gibson,. I was reading an article of feller and it just flowed, Substitute Gibson for feller and the point stands. Thanks for the understnding. AS for my “lack” of baseball knowledge, it ranks right up there with Pherris’s lack of commincative skills. Basically Pherris, you add nothing to this, or any other blog

phan52: is the irony of you supporting what I said, even in part, lost on you?
fij: there is nothing wrong with my communication skills but I understand how you may think so considering English is your second language.

You guys were great. It was enjoyable reading the exchanges….very entertaining and educational.

Sick of pitch counts? Yes, I am. They pay starters millions only to watch them get to some magical 100-pitch mark and lift them for a relief pitcher who should be in AAA instead of the majors. Financially, it makes no sense.

No less an expert than Mitch Williams says that it isn’t pitch counts that ruin a pitcher’s arm, it’s bad mechanics. If pitchers would learn proper mechanics instead of counting pitches, they could last longer than some arbitrary 100-pitch count. What does the body know from 100? It’s a made-up limit.

Guys like Halladay have such an easy motion and flawless mechanics that the number of pitches doesn’t come into play. You can whine about the “old days,” but pitchers pitched in those times. They didn’t spend 4 days waiting around for their next start. The body adapts to work just as it does to not working. Pitchers have been conditioned to stop working after a certain point, and it’s bad for baseball.
There’s nothing like a complete game, but they’ve gone the way of the dinosaur because teams are more concerned with artificially preserving a starter than in using their best option to try to win.

muleman: Latest SI has an article about the Rangers and how Nolan Ryan and Mike Maddux are managing the pitching staff there. You would appreciate it, the three of you think alike. Check it out:


muleman: You’ve expressed your views on pitch counts ad nauseam. Are you going to continue to beat that dead horse or what?

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