It’s hard to exactly explain just how good Roy Halladay is. On the way to a 9-0 victory over the Cincinnati Reds that would give Halladay his 16th of the season, Halladay went 7 innings, gave up 2 hits and 2 walks, and struck out 9 hitters. That’s domination. To top it all off, he had a 3-run double to aid his own cause. Ryan Howard (2 HRs, 3 RBIs) and Raul Ibanez (HR, 2 RBIs) surely helped, but once the Phillies amassed that 6-run lead in the sixth, the game was in hand. Nail it down. Lock it up. It was finished.
What people fail to understand, though, is that Halladay has been awesome for an entire decade now. Gaining notoriety during the 2009 season as teams lined up to ask JP Ricciardi for Halladay’s number, Halladay had spent most of the past decade dominating the toughest division in baseball while having to face the toughest teams in baseball. During the span of time from 2001-2011, Halladay has never had anything below a 3.2 fWAR season (2 is average, 4 is All-Star, 6 is in Cy Young conversation), and in the three seasons below 5 fWAR, he pitched 105 innings (4.3 fWAR) in 2001, 133 (3.2 fWAR) in 2004, and 141 (4.4 fWAR) in 2005. Taking out those seasons, he’s had 8 seasons of 5+ WAR, 6 of which were above 6.5 WAR. That’s 6 seasons where he was a legit Cy Young candidate, but that’s not all. In 2002 and 2003, he amassed 7.8 and 8 WAR, respectively, and he’s had 2 other seasons over 7 WAR.
How has he done it? Well, when you think of what makes a pitcher good, you would say a lot of Ks, few walks, and keeping the ball on the ground because then it can’t go out of the park. Halladay hasn’t always struck out tons of hitters (never topping 7 K/9, which is about average, between 2002 and 2007), but he’s done a much better job over the past four seasons, actually improving each year from 7.54 to 8.64. In the walks department, his career BB/9 is 1.84 (MLB average around 3), and he hasn’t topped 1.5 since 2007. As for keeping the ball on the ground, his GB/FB (ground balls/fly balls) is 2.13 for his career (MLB average around 1.25). Essentially, he’s perfect. Normally pitchers give ground in one of the areas–pitching up and giving up grounders for more Ks, sacrificing Ks for better control and fewer BBs, etc.–but Halladay is perfection incarnate.
Of course, you can’t forget his durability. Over the past 5 seasons, he’s always pitched more than 220 innings and over 240 (239 in 2009 but I’ll give him the 1) in each of the last three, and he’s well on his way to doing it again this season. Good Twitter buddy Peter Hjort from Capitol Avenue Club asked, “Who really does remind me of Greg Maddux?” the other day, and my response was immediately toward Halladay. Career numbers? K/9: 6.86 and 6.06 (Maddux). BB/9: 1.84 and 1.80. FIP: 3.32 and 3.26. ERA: 3.26 and 3.16. Maddux, however, dwarfs Halladay in innings pitched, 5008 to 2487, and WAR, 121 to 69, and at 34, Halladay won’t touch either.
Today’s Match-ups: Phil Hughes continues his audition for a playoff rotation spot against playoff-veteran Josh Beckett … James Shields and Alexi Ogando will match-up in a game of 2011 surprisers … and Dan Haren will take on King Felix in the pitcher’s duel of the night.