A Much Different Doc
Following a substandard 2012 and a troubling spring training in Florida, Roy Halladay lasted just 3 1/3 innings in his season debut last night at Turner Field. He allowed six hits, five runs, three walks, two home runs and struck out nine. Typically, when a pitcher records nine of his first 10 outs on strikeouts he is dominant. But Halladay was not dominant. Far from it. He threw 95 pitches (55 strikes) in those 3 1/3 innings as his performance only raised more concerns and doubts about his ability to return to form, despite Halladay and Charlie Manuel insisting everything will be fine.
The Braves certainly noticed a difference.
“It was a little bit different,” manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “I couldn’t tell you what it is. His velocity was maybe a (tick) or two below what you’ve seen. But I couldn’t tell you much more than that, not living with him or not knowing what’s going on over there.”
“Not velocity wise,” said rightfielder Jason Heyward, when asked if Halladay looked the same. “But he has a lot of weapons. So it was no surprise to see the strikeouts. Once he gets two strikes against you with him, he can got whatever way he wants and pick at you. We did wear him down and we made sure we got some pitches to hit. When we hit him, we hit him hard.”
Halladay insisted he will fix his problems and he will be better.
The Phillies hope so. It is all they can do at this point: hope Halladay’s words mean something. Because he says he feel great. Better than ever, actually. He said he felt great warming up in the bullpen. He said he felt great stepping on the mound. He said his arm strength is there. He said his cutter and sinker have improved.
“I was just trying to be too picky, too fine,” he claimed. “Last year, feeling the way you do, you think ‘I can’t through an 86 mph fastball to a general zone. It’s going to get hit.’ So you get to the point where you start to get picky. I’m getting to the point where I’m building arm strength and it’s continuing to grow every time I pitch, so I can start opening things up and not try to be so fine — which is what I’ve always done. I’ve always relied on movement and not tried to pick sides of the plate. And there were times where we were picking corners of the plate. I need to open it up and let the movement take care of itself. But the arm strength is a key to that and continues to build. I think that’s something I can start widening.”
Halladay hit 92 on the radar gun once, but by the fourth inning he could not hit 90. He threw 47 offspeed pitches (curveballs and changeups) and 47 fastballs (cutters and sinkers) with one pitch unknown, according to pitch f/x data. If you go back to pitch f/x data in 2011, when Halladay was last dominant, he threw his cutter and sinker 66.4 percent of the time, meaning he threw significantly more soft stuff last night than he had in the past. It looks like he is trying to reinvent himself, or he simply does not trust his hard stuff late in the count.
Asked if he understands the concerns about his performance or if the doom-and-gloom out there is ridiculous, Halladay said, “Honestly, I don’t care what you guys write. You’re welcome to write whatever you want. I feel like the progressions have been there. The results haven’t, and that’s frustrating. But I feel like they are going to come. I want them to come sooner than they have and I’m pushing for them to come sooner than they have and sometimes that’s part of the problem.”