Results tagged ‘ Roy Halladay ’

Nine Up, Nine Down

Chase UtleyHere are some things we’ve learned through the first nine games of the season:

  • You should be worried about Roy Halladay. Despite protests from Halladay and everybody else in the Phillies clubhouse and front office, Halladay has not looked good since 2011. So this isn’t a four or five start slump. This is a slump that has extended beyond one full calendar year. It started in Spring Training 2012 and has lasted through his first two starts in 2013. Besides a drop in velocity, Halladay’s ERA from 2010-11 to 2012-13 has jumped from 2.40 to 4.95, while his strikeout-to-walk ratio has plummeted from 6.75 to 3.43. He is going the wrong direction in every relevant statistic. Maybe he can figure out things and be productive, but right now there is no evidence to suggest he is close. He faces the wretched Marlins on Sunday. They’ve had Placido Polanco and Greg Dobbs hitting cleanup. It is a good opportunity to have some success on the mound. Maybe it gets him going.
  • Don’t be worried about Cole Hamels. If we’re at Defcon 2 with Halladay, we’re at Defcon 5 with Hamels. There is nothing to see here. Please, disperse.
  • It’s more the rotation than the bullpen. Phillies starters have a 6.24 ERA, which ranks 28th in baseball. That is the biggest issue right now, not middle relievers like Chad Durbin, Jeremy Horst and Raul Valdes. Certainly they need to do a better job. They have allowed 12-of-15 inherited runners to score. That 80 percent mark is the worst in baseball. (Technically, the Reds have allowed 100 percent of their inherited runners to score, but they’re only 1-for-1.) But the middle relievers have been pitching too much and have put into too many tough situations. That blame falls on the starters. They are the ones that need to do better. They are supposed to pitch deep into games and they have not done that nearly enough.
  • The Phillies rank seventh in the National League, averaging 4.67 runs per game. They have looked better recently, and they show some potential. Chase Utley, Michael Young and Jimmy Rollins are swinging well right now. Domonic Brown has been OK. I believe Ryan Howard will be better than he has been. The only drag right now is Ben Revere. He has struck out seven times in 38 at-bats. That’s 5.86 plate appearances per strikeout. He struck out 54 times last season, or once every 10.24 plate appearances. John Mayberry Jr. has been productive, but even if he continues to swing well the Phillies are going with Delmon Young in right field when he is ready. Add Young and Carlos Ruiz to the lineup before the end of the month and this lineup has a chance to score some runs.
  • Utley looks like the guy that earned the “Best Second Baseman in Baseball” tag from 2005-09.
  • Cliff Lee can be streaky. The Phillies should be thankful he started on a good streak, otherwise they’d be in deep doo-doo.

Doc Will Get His Chances

Roy HalladayRoy Halladay has been one of the best pitchers in baseball for more than a decade, so he has earned the right to pitch through his problems, if he can.

The Phillies made that clear today at Citizens Bank Park, where Ruben Amaro Jr. said Halladay gets as long as he needs to correct himself, and Charlie Manuel said he is completely committed to his former ace.

Manuel offered an example of just how long his leash can be.

“You guys used to get on me about Brad Lidge,” he said, referring to Lidge’s 2009 season when he went 0-8 with a 7.21 ERA and 11 blown saves. “I used to look down there, and to me Brad Lidge was probably the best I had. If I was going to lose the game it was going to be Brad Lidge. I was committed to Brad Lidge. If I commit to you then I commit to you. And whatever happens is going to happen. That’s kind of how I look at it.”

Halladay has a ghastly 14.73 ERA through two starts, which follows struggles in Spring Training and struggles in 2012. He has allowed 12 hits, 12 runs, six walks, three home runs, one hit batter, two wild pitches and struck out 12 in just 7 1/3 innings this season.

Amaro and Manuel said they never considered holding back Halladay, having him pitch in extended Spring Training games before he was better prepared to pitch in the Phillies rotation. To have him pitch extended Spring Training games, the Phillies would have needed to place him on the disabled list, but Amaro said Halladay is not injured.

In fact, he said Halladay has not been on the team’s daily injury report once this year.

“Roy felt he was physically ready to go,” Amaro said. “There wasn’t anything real alarming.”

“Roy has earned the right to tell us how he feels, and how he wants to go about certain things when it comes to his routine and his pitching and things like that,” Manuel added. “We never once thought about shutting him down or nothing. I can tell you that. You know something else? Shutting him down ain’t the right way, either. I don’t see no way in the world, if he’s healthy and everything like that, we shut him down.”

Is It Mental? Or Is This Just Halladay?

Roy HalladayThe longer this lasts the less the words will mean.

But Roy Halladay insists his problems are fixable. He allowed six hits, seven runs, three walks and one home run in four-plus innings last night in a 7-2 loss to the Mets. He has a 14.73 ERA after two starts. His poor start last night followed his poor start Wednesday in Atlanta, where he allowed five runs in 3 1/3 innings. That start followed a troubling spring training, which followed a mediocre 2012 plagued by injuries. Halladay said his problems are mostly mental at this point. He is pressing. He is trying too hard. Maybe. But it is highly unusual for somebody of his caliber to struggle like this. He just might be out of bullets.

No, he insisted, it’s mental.

“One of my biggest mentors, [sports psychiatrist] Harvey Dorfman, used to always tell me, ‘When you’re trying to catch a bird, if you’re flailing at it, trying to grab for it, you’re never going to catch it. You have to hold your hands out and let it land in your hands. And it’s the same way with pitching,” Halladay said. “Especially when you want something so bad you’d do anything to get it. But sometimes the best course of action is to prepare yourself and let it come to you. But it’s tough because you care about the game, you care about your teammates, you care about the fans, you care about the organization. You want it badly.”

The Phillies continue to maintain Halladay is healthy. If he is healthy, what is the plan then? To me the plan is obvious: continue to let him pitch. Putting him in the bullpen isn’t an option because he’ll get such little work he won’t be able to fix anything. I don’t see the Phillies coming up with a phantom injury and sending him to the minor leagues, either. I think they will continue to express their faith in him, giving him the respect he deserves and crossing their fingers like everybody else that this is just a bad stretch. They really have no other option. If they felt they had somebody to step in and pitch successfully at the beginning of the season, they probably wouldn’t  have signed John Lannan to a one-year, $2.5 million contract. But they felt they lacked depth so they got him.

If the Phillies plan to win they need Halladay to pitch better. That is obvious. But that means they’ve got to give him a chance to fix himself. He’s owed that much.

They just hope it happens soon. Sometimes following one of Kyle Kendrick‘s starts, Charlie Manuel will say, “Kendrick pitched a Kyle Kendrick-like game tonight.” He means six innings and three or four earned runs. Not terrible. Not great, either. Competitive. Keeping the team in the game. Giving them a chance to win. You’ve got to think the Phillies would kill for a “Kendrick-like” game from Halladay. Because the only thing he is doing right now is burying them early and giving them no chance to win.

Dubee Talks Doc

Roy Halladay, Rich DubeePhillies pitching coach Rich Dubee offered his take this afternoon on Roy Halladay‘s performance last night at Turner Field.

It is no surprise he is as optimistic and upbeat as Halladay, Charlie Manuel and Ruben Amaro Jr.

Here is some of what he said:

Q: What do you make of the results and are you as optimistic as him?
A: What I make of the results is pretty much that whole game. They struck out 16 times and they put nine runs up on us. They hit a couple of mistakes and we paid for it. But as far as Doc’s stuff, I feel very good about it. I think he continues to build. Like I said his last two outings in spring training, he’s starting to build momentum. Is he there yet? No. But I thought his stuff continues to improve. The one thing he’s not doing, he’s not commanding it like he needs to.

Q: Is there an issue with Roy trusting his stuff?
A:
I don’t know if it’s an issue of trusting his stuff as much as trying to get to where he understands what his stuff is and how it’s going to play and how he can work off that. It’s still a phase where he’s trying to find out what he’s going to have and what he’s going to be able to do.
You talk about he got nine out of 10 outs with strikeouts. They got six hits, two of them were home runs, the other four weren’t hit very good at all. Broken bat by (Freddie) Freeman in the first, a jam shot by (Juan) Francisco in the first, a jam shot by Freeman and then (Andrelton) Simmons’ base hit in the fourth. That’s all encouraging to me. He’s still got swing-and-miss stuff and he’s got to find a way and we have to find a way to be a little more aggressive and get quicker outs.

Q: He said he can let his fastball loose, but he then threw mostly offspeed stuff deep in the count. Why?
A: Hitters will dictate a lot of time, too. If they’re still charging fastballs and you’re getting some of the swings you’re getting off breaking balls and splits, why wouldn’t you throw it?

Q: So he’s not afraid to let sinker or cutter go?
A: I don’t think so, no.

Q: What’s taken so long for it all to click for him then?
A: Bad habits. Bad habits that he acquired when he was hurt. This was a guy who did something as consistently as you could possibly do it for years.

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A Much Different Doc

Roy HalladayUh, relax and stay calm everybody?

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.

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D-Day for Doc

Roy HalladayToday is the day.

Roy Halladay makes his 2013 debut tonight after a bad spring. I wrote yesterday that Monday’s loss to the Braves wouldn’t have caused such consternation in Philadelphia had this been 2010-11, when Halladay was at the top of his game. But following a poor 2012, everybody is anxious to see what he has left in his right arm.

But it is tough to be optimistic about Halladay, despite proclamations from Halladay, Rich Dubee, Ruben Amaro Jr. and others that everything is fine. (Privately, the Phillies are just as anxious as everybody else.)

Their message: Remain calm, all is well!

But is it? His velocity is down, although it ticked upward in his last couple spring starts. (That means hitting 90 mph once two starts ago, and 91 mph once in his last start.) His location hasn’t been there. He has been hit hard. He has had trouble throwing his cutter. He has labored. And he has offered numerous plausible explanations for those struggles: dead arm, lethargy after throwing an extra bullpen session in between starts, stomach virus, mushy mound, improperly rubbed baseballs, trouble finding a good grip for the cutter, throwing too much hard stuff to Minor League hitters, etc. Is he suddenly going to put everything together against a Braves lineup that showed what it can do against a pitcher that can’t locate, like Cole Hamels couldn’t on Monday? If Halladay is throwing 87-89 and he can’t locate it could be a very quick night for him. If he looks good, then everybody will exhale a little bit … at least until his next start. He’s going to have to string together a few good ones before I think everybody truly relaxes.

Note: Before anybody says, “There goes the media again, blowing things out of proportion.” Just remember, pretty much every scout in baseball — scouts the Phillies and every team employ to make multimillion dollar decisions on players — have expressed the same concerns about Halladay.

I could see something like 5 innings, 8 hits, 4 runs, 3 walks, 5 strikeouts and 1 home run from him tonight. It is hard to say he will do better, considering he allowed 21 hits, 11 runs, nine walks, three home runs and struck out 16 in 16 1/3 innings in six Grapefruit League starts. And that doesn’t include the start he made against Triple-A hitters from Toronto, when he allowed 11 of 18 batters to reach base.

Predictions?

Down Doc, Up Brown

Domonic BrownThe Phillies returned home last night, and most things in camp went well except for Roy Halladay. I don’t include Darin Ruf here because I think people in the organization hoped Ruf would fare well in the outfield, although they did not necessarily expect it. And starting him in Triple-A isn’t the worst thing in the world, nor is it a crushing blow to the team’s chances. But Halladay’s importance is obvious, and the fact he had so many issues and struggles leaves one enormous question mark on the mound.

I said a couple weeks ago I thought the Phillies would jump at the opportunity if somebody told them Halladay would finish 14-10 with a 3.80 ERA in 30-32 starts this season.

I believe that even more today.

I’ve never seen a premiere pitcher struggle like this in the spring. I mean, I’ve certainly seen great pitchers struggle in spring training before, but it never looked like this. He labored, he struggled to command his pitches, he lacked velocity, he didn’t have a feel for his cutter, which has been a money pitch for him. But if you’re an optimist, then you believe each of Halladay’s explanations for his struggles following his last five starts. He mentioned “dead arm” March 6, when his velocity dipped for the first time. He said he felt lethargic March 12, when the Tigers battered him in 2 2/3 innings. An extra bullpen session in between starts, plus the rigors of a more intense workout program, sapped his energy, he said. He promised he would pull back before his next start and there would be improvements. But he suffered from a stomach virus March 17, and lasted just one inning against the Orioles. Then last Saturday in a minor league game against Toronto’s Triple-A hitters, Halladay allowed 11 of 18 base runners to reach base. He blamed a “mushy mound” for his lack of velocity and said throwing more hard stuff against minor league hitters hurt him. Then yesterday he allowed two runs and eight hits in 4 1/3 innings against the Blue Jays with Toronto picking up three of those outs on the bases. He said he found it difficult to grip the baseball because the balls were not rubbed up with mud properly before the game. The Phillies also said he is still trying to recover his strength following his sickness.

Again, each of these explanations are completely plausible, but coming off last season’s struggles it would unwise to take them at face value.

If the over/under on Halladay’s ERA this season is 4.19 (average ERA for starters last year) I’d have to take the over.

Conversely, Domonic Brown has been Halladay’s polar opposite. He has looked incredible this spring. I wrote earlier how Brown’ spring training numbers could indicate a successful 2013. John Dewan said players that show a 200-point increase in their spring training slugging percentage from their career slugging percentage have performed significantly above their career marks in the upcoming season 60 percent of the time. Brown finished the spring with a .675 slugging percentage compared to a .388 career slugging percentage. That is a .287 difference, which puts him in that group. Like I wrote in my story, eight of the 12 Phillies previously on Dewan’s list ended up surpassing their career slugging percentages during the regular season. Of the four players that fell short, two were not everyday players (Eric Bruntlett in 2009 and Pete Orr in ’11) and one got injured midway through the season (Jim Thome in ’05). Maybe Brown will make Dewan 9 for 13.

If the over/under on Brown’s slugging percentage is .428 (average slugging percentage for outfielders last season), I’m taking the over.

Ryan Howard also had a great spring, compiling a .663 slugging percentage, but his career slugging percentage is .551 so he fell .088 short of Dewan’s mark. But Howard’s slugging percentage the previous two seasons is just .468, so maybe he is in line for a bounce back season, too.

Opening Day is three days away.

Predictions for Halladay, Brown and Howard?

Big Thursday for Doc

Roy HalladayTomorrow is a big day for Roy Halladay.

He pitches against the Blue Jays at Bright House Field. In seasons past, his final Grapefruit League start would be nondescript and uneventful. He would fine tune a few things and taper down before he pitched Opening Day. But tomorrow’s start is much different. It carries significance. Halladay has had issues in each of his previous four starts, and despite the Phillies keeping a stiff upper lip publicly that everything is well, privately they would like to see him pitch effectively just like everybody else.

Should you be concerned about Halladay? Yes, you should.

Halladay did not pitch well last year. He was injured. He labored at times. He simply didn’t resemble the pitcher that dominated the National League in 2010-11. But he said he came into camp feeling great. He said a new training program had him on the way back. But after he looked fine in his first two Grapefruit League starts there have been issues. His velocity dropped from 89-91 in those first two starts to 86-88 in his third start. He mentioned “dead arm,” which is not uncommon for pitchers. In his fourth start, he got shellacked in 2 2/3 innings. Some guns had him 85-87. He said he felt lethargic because he threw an extra bullpen session in between starts and because the more intense workout program had caught up to him. He had a stomach virus in his fourth start, which caused him to last just one inning and drop eight to 10 pounds. And then in his fifth start Saturday in a Minor League game at Carpenter Complex, where 11 of 18 Triple-A hitters reached base, he said he threw more hard stuff than he normally would. He also said he was tweaking his cutter grip, which is an important pitch for him, and could not crank up his fastball because of a wet mound.

(His velocity bumped up to 88-90, although he hit just 90 once.)

Each of Halladay’s explanations over those four starts are completely plausible. But they also are concerning because they are coming from a potential Hall of Famer that turns 36 in May and has thrown 2,687 1/3 inning in his big-league career. Should a healthy Halladay be having so many issues? Can we take anybody at their word after everybody said everything was fine last year, when he was having back problems in camp?

Everybody will breathe a little easier if Halladay looks good tomorrow. But if he doesn’t, if the Blue Jays batter balls around the field, there will some serious concern entering Wednesday’s start in Atlanta against the Braves.

Amaro, Dubee Opine on Halladay’s Saturday

Roy Halladay’s start yesterday in a Minor League game at Carpenter Complex drew plenty of attention.

He has had a rough month, struggling in starts because of dead arm, lethargy and illness, respectively. Then 11 of the 18 batters he faced yesterday reached base. He got just three swings and misses, with Triple-A hitters from the Toronto Blue Jays hitting numerous balls hard. His fastball consistently hit 87-89 mph on the radar gun, hitting 90 mph once in the first inning. He officially allowed three runs, although he had the bases loaded with two outs when the first inning got cut short after he reached his pitch limit.

Halladay insisted he felt fine and will be ready to go April 3 in Atlanta.

“He was OK,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said.

“After what he’s gone through, he was fine,” Rich Dubee said. “I’m not looking for results right now. The good part was he threw 80 pitches, he felt strong and felt like he could have thrown more. The arm slot was fine. He’s a ways from repeating it. Do you see anybody at their level yet? He’s not where he’s going to be yet. But I thought the velocity for not having pitched was good. He sat 88 to 90 consistently and finished the game at 89 almost 80 pitches into it. So arm-strength wise, that was good and he feels like there is more there. I think the more we get it right, the more it will come out.”

Halladay Labors In Minors

Roy HalladayRoy Halladay threw four innings in a minor league game today at Carpenter Complex.

It didn’t look like it, but he said he will be ready to pitch and pitch effectively April 3 in Atlanta.

He threw 82 pitches, consistently hitting 87-89 mph on the radar gun. He hit 90 mph once in the first inning. If you were looking for positive results, they weren’t there. Halladay retired just seven of the 18 batters he faced. He allowed seven hits and two walks. He hit a batter while another batter reached base on a sacrifice bunt and error. He got just three swings and misses as he had trouble putting away hitters with two strikes. He officially allowed just three runs, although he had his first inning cut short after throwing 27 pitches, leaving the bases loaded with two outs in the process.

Here is some of what Halladay said afterward:

You felt fatigued two starts ago. You were sick in your last start. How did you feel physically?
I felt good. I was trying to talk him into letting me throw a few more. Arm-wise I felt really good. I think more than anything it took a toll on consistency, really in my lower half. My arm slot felt good. I felt like my landing spot was varying a little bit from time to time, but other than that I felt good. I felt like my arm was consistently in the same spot. We tried to throw a lot of sinkers and a lot of cutters today, we threw some better cutters. We tried a couple of different things with the cutters and I felt like toward the end we really narrowed down what I want to do with it. But I felt strong. I was surprised. I thought I was going to be a little wobbly leg-wise and stuff. But I felt good. I felt like I could have easily threw a 100-plus pitches. So form that standpoint, I’m pretty happy. Arm felt great, no soreness, I don’t think I’m going to feel sore tomorrow. And I felt like my stamina was there. Just working on the consistency on my lower half in the next bullpen and go from there. But I was glad that, you know, it didn’t set me back like I thought it was going to as far as physically. I felt strong and felt like the stamina was there.

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