Monday, May 31, 2010

The ironies of Roy Halladay's perfect game

Go figure: Roy Halladay threw a perfect game without being a Toronto Blue Jay, or even being Roy Halladay.

A pleasant irony for a Jays fan is that Doc was not totally in vintage form when he retired all 27 Florida Marlins hitters for the Philadelphia Phillies last Saturday. An irony for Canadian ball fans is that Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, the guy who killed baseball in Montreal, is actually selling thousands and thousands of unused tickets as keepsakes. Hey, there's profit to be had.

Halladay threw more pitches, 115, than he did in 38 of the 43 nine-inning (or more) complete games that he turned in for the Jays from 2002 through '09. For a Canadian point of reference, Dennis Martinez hurled 96 pitches when he was El Presidente, El Perfecto for the late and lamented Expos at Dodger Stadium on July 28, 1991.

So, Down Goes Brown was not woofing when it Tweeted, "Roy Halladay pitches a perfect game; or, as Jays fans call it, the fourth or fifth best game we've ever seen him pitch." That would make us Jays fans, to play off another Philly sports figure with a medical-profession moniker, the 2010 answer to hoops nuts who claim people only saw the real Julius Erving in the American Basketball Association instead of in the NBA with the 76ers, where he's more remembered.

Doc's perfecto has prompted the inevitable retrospectives on Hall of Famer and U.S. Senator Jim Bunning's perfect game for the Phillies in 1964. (Bunning needed just 90 pitches in that one.) Each did it in his first year with the club after coming over from an American League team. Each was credited with his seventh win of the season. Bunning is one of Halladay's comparables.

Beyond that, it's noteworthy that a few years back, it seemed like Halladay slotted into the Bunning family of pitchers who as Bill James wrote, "are the whole package ... (but) do lose sometimes because they throw strikes, and if you put the ball over the plate sometimes the batter is going to hit it." In 2006, it seemed like -- and perhaps this was giving in to pessimism -- that might work against Halladay's chances of twirling a no-hitter.

More balls in play meant more chances for someone to get a flare, a gork, a ground ball with eyes, one more dying quail. It was less apparent that at that time, Halladay was posting the lowest strikeout rate of his career in '06 (132 in 220 innings, an even 5.4 per nine). He had been sidelined the previous season by a broken leg, which perhaps affected his stamina and forced him to economize and try to go for those more democratic ground ball outs.

On Saturday, of course, Doc had 11 strikeouts. He was on top of the Marlins hitters. FanGraphs noted he did not allow a single line drive and had the highest single-game Win Probability Added in almost five years.
Because of the tight score, Halladay accrued a fantastic +.888 WPA. That mark is the highest for any pitcher since June 26th, 2005, when A.J Burnett and the Florida Marlins defeated the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 1-0.
All of that has to be tempered by noting a wide strike zone helped Halladay wriggle out of a few 3-1 and 3-2 counts.

Halladay's feat, as it did for Bunning, should add to his "recognizability quotient." That's awesome in the long run. It was always evident Doc had the goods to throw a no-hit, no-run game, as much as it's a logical impossibility to predict.

Point being, though, as a Jays fan, seeing that his pitch count hit an unsightly, un-Doc-like 115, is cause to smile. It shows which city and country is home to the gallery that best reflects his art.


eyebleaf said...

It shows which city and country is home to the gallery that best reflects his art.

Beautifully said, Neate.

Doc for life.

Dave said...

Well, give him time. The AL is certainly perceived as the stronger league right now, still, the NL is 4-6 in World Series despite not having had home field advantage in a while. Took him 115 for a perfecto in the NL? Would that indicate the NL is tougher? Probably not, the Marlins happen to be pretty decent. Walter Johnson was a great pitcher on woeful teams trapped by both the reserve clause and the fact he was the one draw the Senators had. A little like Halladay, pitching for a "AAAA" club while honing his craft. Think the "Big Train" wouldn't have jumped at a chance to win? As it is, Jays fans should be pleased with the class and respect of this guy. But all the same, it's probably good he did go to the other league, given the moronic way they treat guys like Rios, who was traded by MANAGEMENT after all......

sager said...

All 115 pitches says is he wasn't as efficient that night as he's been in other low-run, low-hit games.

Walter Johnson? That was like 100 years ago, not really relevant. (And he did get to pitch in 2 World Series with the Senators, winning once.)