Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Roy Halladay with a nod to the gods

Thank goodness for Roy Halladay. He removes the need to get too deep about baseball.

The big appeal of Halladay's night on Tuesday, beating A.J. Burnett and the Yankees 5-1 with a complete-game five-hitter, was that it feels like it's taking one back to when pitching a ball game was like giving a performance, a real art. It is probably better articulated recently by blog post the veteran broadcaster and former pitcher Jim Kaat wrote last week about today's hurlers not knowing how "to pitch to the scoreboard and to the count."
"Pitchers today should be less cautious early on, and try to throw as many strikes as possible to avoid long counts and keep hitters from seeing and deciphering too many pitches. When it's tied in the seventh, and the pitcher has not been more economical and the pitch count stands at 108, managers are forced to take him out. However, if it's the sixth inning and he's only thrown 75, he's got enough to finish the game."
That seems to sum up Halladay in a big bloody nutshell. He needed just 56 pitches (only 16 for balls) while facing the minimum 18 Yankees batters across the first six innings.

To build off Kaat's point, he had more than enough to cruise home across the final three against the Yankees, who extended him to a 24-pitch seventh when they got their only run. There really wasn't even much trepidation when Johnny Damon got a one-out double in the seventh inning with the 3-4-5 hitters coming up and the score only 3-0, since you had to figure Halladay would give the Yankees enough rope to get one runner in, but no more. That might be saying more about how the Yankees can't push a train up a dirt road these days, even with a $200-million payroll, but that's their problem. Honestly, Kaat's piece and Halladay's piece of work speak better to the seamheaded lament about pitchers being unable to go the full nine:
"I wanted to try to knock out every hitter in three or less pitches and/or try to make him get hits on all of them. The great Sandy Koufax, a good friend of mine, said he was the most successful pitcher because he tried to get hitters to hit the ball, not miss the ball. Let's face it; the best hitters get three hits out of 10 at-bats. I remember times when I used to tell the catcher to call just fastball after fastball, and get as many out as possible in the early innings. Then when it came down to the last few innings, I could use my other weapons more effectively. Curveballs, sliders, and everything else I had in my arsenal. That was when it really counted.

"... Pitching is tougher these days. With smaller stadiums, a smaller strike zone, a tighter wound ball, and lighter, laminated, harder bats, there is little opportunity to keep hitters from diving into the ball without a fight, a warning or an ejection. And hitters are bigger and stronger than ever. Watch some of the World Series highlights on the MLB Network and check out the size difference in the players then and now. But, even with that said, sooner or later you have to throw it over the plate.

"There's plenty of data out there to support throwing aggressively early on. If the hitter is behind in the count 0-1, 1-2, 0-2, he likely hits under .200. If it's 1-0, 2-0, 3-1, he's usually over .300. Today's pitchers need to challenge hitters early in the game and trust their stuff and maybe they'll pop a few up or hit them at one of the fielders. Only then will the pitcher be around to enjoy the thrill of trying to get hitters out with the game on the line in the eighth or ninth — and, as an added bonus, teams won't have to carry 12 pitchers on a staff and use four or five pitchers a game."
Obviously, with that approach, there are times when a pitcher's best stuff gets hit and he's going to lose. The point is, though, perfection is the enemy of good, and as a fan you can sort of see that in Halladay. He made the Yankees look ineffectual in something that was far from the best-pitched game of his career or in the majors this season (his game score was 78, so it wasn't even in his top 10). The upshot is the Blue Jays are pretty much automatic when Halladay is throwing against the Yankees (12-2 dating back to the start of the 2005 season). He is going to lose sometimes, since like Kaat says, major league hitters will eventually hit the ball where a fielder can't get to it.

Plus, yeah, it was schadenfrelicious that he obliterated the Yankees while starting opposite A.J. Burnett, on a day when the Yankees' old aura took another beating. Between one of their executives defending the "caste system" at the new Yankee Stadium and ex-Yankee Roger Clemens continuing to run his mouth when he and fellow vainboy Brett Favre would better serve humanity by signing on to herd sheep together in Wyoming, Halladay's gem was just a cherry on the sundae.

(For those of you who missed it, Lonn Trost, a Yankees executive, defended the team's practice of keeping fans with lower-priced tickets, relatively speaking, from going down near the field during pregame workouts.
"On the issue of allowing regular fans and kids to watch batting practice from the field level, here is what Trost had to say: 'If you purchased a suite, do you want people in your suite? If you purchased a house, do you want people in your house?'

"Wow. That’s pretty much all the evidence you need about the caste system at the new Stadium. There is a Stadium for the wealthy and there is a Stadium for everybody else.

"You know what is really sad about the whole thing? None of those people even watch BP. The entire area is largely empty before the game."
Far be it to point out Yankees fans are more than welcome to go down during pregame workouts at Rogers Centre should they want to get a good look at a first-place ballclub. Who knows how much longer Jays fans will get to say that, eh?

Incidentally, according to, here are Roy Halladay's top 5 performances, by game score:
  • 93 — May 29, 2005 vs. Minnesota: Went the route on a two-hitter with no walks, getting 10 strikeouts against nine different Twins hitters.

  • 91 — Oct. 5, 2001 vs. Cleveland: A two-hit, no-walk shutout over a playoff-bound Clevelandteam that took all of one hour, 57 minutes. Cleveland played most of its regulars that day except for future 500-home run man Jim Thome. That might make Thome the first player to come down with what the FAN 590's Mike Wilner has termed the "RH32 flu."

  • 90 — July 11, 2008 vs. the Yankees: A two-hit shutout with one walk and eight strikeouts, coming right before the. Jeter and Alex Rodriguez had the only hits.

  • 90, Sept. 6, 2003 vs. Detroit: This probably needs an asterisk since it was against a Tigers team which would have had trouble winning the Governors' Cup that season (if you get that joke, you're an incurable Seamhead or a very good Googler). Halladay pitched a three-hit shutout to win 1-0 in 10 innings, with 21 ground-ball outs. It came just five days after he pitched a four-hitter to beat the pennant-winning Yankees.

  • 89 — April 29, 2005 at New York: A three-hit shutout to beat Randy Johnson and the Yankees. Both struck out nine on a Friday night in the Bronx, but Halladay was doing it vs. Jeter, Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield, Jason Giambi and Bernie Williams, whereas the Big Unit was blowing third strikes by Frank Menechino, Reed Johnson, Eric Hinske and John McDonald before he became McGlovin. You get the idea. To be fair, Hinske did hit the game-winning two-run homer.
(Much obliged to Jason Rosenberg at It Is About The Money, Stupid for the Yankees links.)


dyanna said...

I like your blog.I'm waiting for your new posts.

eyebleaf said...

Somebody please kick my ass the day I stop appreciating Roy Halladay.

Ian H. said...

I remember that July 11th game as if it were almost yesterday. That was also the game where McDonald and Scutaro teamed up for one of the most amazing double plays I've ever seen.

Rob Pettapiece said...

The April 2005 win over the Yankees stands out the most, in terms of "best game overall." Hinske had no business, none whatsoever, hitting a home run against a tough lefty, let alone Randy Johnson. The 4-foot-7 Menechino in the box against the 7-foot-4 Johnson just added to the absurdity.

It's only a 78, but honourable mention goes to Doc's game on April 13, 2007. Ten innings, one run, and just 107 pitches in 2:14 against a Tigers team that won't make you sick and kill you.