Roy Halladay will figure it out
by Scott Butler 4/11/13

To discover the answer to the whole Roy Halladay fiasco, we are going to play our own version of Mad Libs with the below paragraph.

Roy Halladay has been [ADJ. FOR FOUL ODOR] this season.  His control has been [ADJ. LIKE BAD], he has little cut on his cutter, and his fastball must look like a(n) [ADJ. FOR SOMETHING BIG] because it has been [ADJ. LIKE SMASHED].  Halladay has done all of this with a reasonable velocity of 88 to [NUMBER].

Fun, right? OK, maybe I need to get a life.

All games aside, it is that last number which makes Roy Halladay such a curious case this season.  When news broke in Spring Training that Roy Halladay's velocity was as low as 84, smoke alarms went off all over the Delaware Valley.  The walks and lack of movement weren't huge concerns. Those were both sure to come around - I mean, this is Roy Halladay we are talking about here. It was the V-word that frightened little children.

Which is what makes his first two outings so perplexing: his velocity has been fine.  Halladay has only lost a couple ticks off his fastball, still throwing consistently in the low 90’s and marginally harder than both Vance Worley and Kyle Kendrick. 

So follow the logic:  Worley and Kendrick are adequate pitchers with fastballs in the upper 80's/low 90’s. Halladay, who throws a little harder and has two Cy Young awards, 199 career wins, a perfect game, and a postseason no-hitter, looks like a fifth starter at Lehigh Valley.

His problems are obvious: he has no command, his cutters don’t cut, he only gets swings and misses on offspeed pitches, he can’t put hitters away, and he overheats quicker than a menopausal woman in the Serengeti.

The difficulty lies in determining why this all is happening.  It doesn’t make sense that Halladay would all of a sudden just lose his command and movement.  Surely the velocity would dip before that happens.  If he isn’t hurt, how can he completely lose something he has mastered for 15 years?

Roy Halladay said it was 95 percent mental in an intensely personal 17-minute soliloquy with the media.  But this isn’t something that can be answered with a short phrase like “It’s mental,” or “It’s physical,” or “It’s just plain over.”

I sure as hell don’t know the answer and most analysts don't have much of a clue, either.  You know the only person who has made any sort of sense?  Curt Schilling.  Yes, Mr. Bloody Sock, Mr. I Want Out of Philly, Mr. Towel Over the Head, Mr. I Ran My Video Game Business into the Ground.

Believe it or not, Mr. Schilling, in an interview with Mike Missanelli, described Halladay’s situation in a way only a seasoned MLB pitcher can.  It was really fascinating stuff.

Curt Schilling's thoughts on Roy Halladay

First of all, Schilling does not think Doc is injured. "If he's injured you would see 87-89 in the first inning or two and then you'd see 84-85,” Schilling noted.

But his velocity is unquestionably down.  Although it isn’t quite as drastic as we first thought, it is enough of a drop that necessities a change in approach which Halladay has not made yet.

“I think I was the last person to know that I had changed,” Schilling said. “Everybody else knew before I did.”

It begins with the physical, evidenced by his lack of effectiveness with his fastball.  Schilling pointed out, “Almost all of his swings and misses were on pitches other than his fastball.”  Halladay recognized this to a certain degree in the Atlanta game, switching to his offspeed pitches in strikeout situations.  But his approach was not consistent. 

“There were times you could see he made a pitch with the stuff he knew he had. But it was the rare times---out of eight or nine pitches there were four or five pitches where he said, 'I'm not going to throw the ball past this guy, I need to make this pitch."

Sounds great in theory.  But how can he get batters out?

“He has to adjust to a new fastball. He has to take that fastball and be finer with it. When he was pitching in his prime, that pie was 17 inches across. As the velocity goes down, that pie gets is now five or six inches across.”

Be finer with it?!  So the guy has a hard enough time getting the ball anywhere near the plate, and you expect him to be...finer?  If it were that easy, don’t you think he would have done it already?

“Command is all about feel. If you think about standing in front of a punching bag and put a fist in front of your face and you just kind of jab at it lightly, you hit it anywhere you want. When you cock your arm back behind you and swing as hard as you can, your ability to hit a specific spot is much harder. He's throwing with the rear back.”

This, I feel, is where we finally get at the heart of it.  Halladay is focused so much on hurling it as hard as he can to keep the velocity high, he has lost the ability to locate and get movement.

"The ball isn't coming out of his hand the same way," Schilling said. "His arm angle has dropped significantly. If you think of a curveball as 12 o'clock to 6 o'clock, his arm angle has dropped down to the 3 o'clock range. His curveball is now like a 2-7 or 3-9; it's more like a slider/cutter. Mentally he's still pitching like it's 2009 but physically its 2012."

What we are seeing is a guy who still has not truly admitted to himself that he is no longer the same Doc Halladay. It may sound easy for us in the seats, but Halladay has been pitching one way for 15 years and it is difficult to change that in just a couple starts.

Schilling is convinced that Halladay will make the proper adjustments. "If he doesn't figure it out in this start, he's gonna figure it out in the next start."

If Halladay is to “reinvent” himself, we might expect to actually see a drop in velocity. But with that drop in velocity, we should notice dramatically better command and movement.

I will stubbornly refuse to admit that it is 95 percent mental, as Halladay claims. I want and need to believe that Halladay is simply too strong of an individual to allow the current trend to continue.

I guess the only real way to know is to watch his next start, and the start after that, and the start after that. Only when we have run out of next starts is it time to truly give up on Doc.

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