Roy Halladay is 6-3 with a 2.22 ERA and 1.10 WHIP. Sounds downright dominating doesn’t it? This should make it all the more shocking when the Phillies all-world ace gets rocked like he did on Sunday by the Red Sox to the tune of seven runs on eight hits, while striking out just one. But if you’ve paid attention very, very closely, you might have been able to spot a dent in Big Doc’s armor for prior to this.
Take out his May 1 shutout of the measly Mets (pre-Jason Bay’s awakening), and Halladay has allowed 44 hits in 35 innings. Over his last four starts, the right-hander has pitched to a mediocre 1.50 WHIP with opponents batting .288 off him. He’s 0-2 with a 4.29 ERA over his last three starts, having allowed 27 hits.
In reality, Sunday was the first time Halladay has faced a potent offensive threat all season. Eight out of his 10 starts have come against teams ranked eighth or lower in batting average in the National League. None of those offenses bat above .261 collectively. That doesn’t include his start against the Nationals, who rank 12th in the league in runs scored.
He’s absolutely feasted on the weakest of the weak. His four complete games have come against the Braves, Mets, Pirates and Astros, who represent four out of the bottom five team batting averages in the NL. He’s padded his numbers big time against that feeble foursome, allowing just two earned runs over 36 innings.
From 2008-2009 Halladay’s K/9 rate was 7.68. So far this year it sits at 6.90, with a 4.71 mark over his last three outings. You’d think his strikeouts would rise substantially with all those pitchers set to whiff in the National League, rather than dip almost a full K. Predictably, his K/BB ratio is also down a over a full point at 4.92 compared to last year’s 5.94.
Is there any explanation for this most recent decline in performance? Maybe it’s because Charlie Manuel has gone to town on Halladay’s right arm like a child with a new toy. Halladay leads all of baseball with 1105 pitches thrown, and his 110.5 pitches per start thus far is easily a career high. Over the four starts prior to Sunday’s shellacking, he averaged an enormous 122.5 pitches per game. Perhaps not the brightest idea for a guy who just reached his 33rd birthday on May 14 having already eclipsed 2,000 career innings pitched.
Things are about to get a whole lot harder for Halladay, and it will be very telling to see how he fares. The Phillies have games against the Red Sox, Yankees, Twins and Blue Jays coming up in June, who represent four out of the five highest-scoring offenses in the American League. They are still yet to face three of the four highest-scoring teams in the NL (other than themselves).
Now, this all being said, no one here is trying to deny the fact that Halladay is likely to be one of the better starters in the game for the remainder of the year. However, whether he’ll retain his status as an elite, Top-3 starter worthy of that second-round draft choice looks somewhat ominous. If you’re a Halladay owner, it may be time to read that writing on the wall and use his current numbers and reputation to deal for some elite value.
UPDATE, MAY 29th: Just kidding.