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Signs of improvement for Roy Halladay
by Scott Butler 4/17/13

Roy Halladay pitched eight innings and allowed just one run on Sunday for his first win of the season. Problem is, that win came against a Marlins team that has scored nine earned runs in 75 innings against starting pitchers this season for an ERA of 1.08--technically Halladay’s 1.13 ERA in the game was worse than the average starter. Facing a historically putrid offense rendered it impossible to permanently change any opinions. Regardless of the outcome, everyone will wait until he faces a real offense like the Cardinals on Friday.

So what can we take from his outing?

Bye, bye velocity

His fastball was about where we can expect it for the rest of the season. His velocity was between 88-90 on his sinker and 87-89 on his cutter. That means the old Roy Halladay is dead, deceased, and expired. But the good news is that Halladay has finally mourned the loss of his former self and can now pitch as he is rather than fight against who he was.

"There are a lot of things you can't control," Halladay said. "And for some reason I felt like I had to control those things. For some reason coming in I felt like I had to prove that I was healthy...prove that I was effective. There were a lot of things that I had no control over but were getting in the way of going out and making pitches.”

Reading between the lines a bit, what he tried to control was his velocity. The naked eye told you that Halladay was laboring in his first two starts. His attempt to harness that last mile or two on his fastball came at the expense of his movement and command. Sounds like he finally came to terms with his new reality in Miami.

Halladay looked comfortable in his own skin on Sunday and wasn’t afraid to pitch with the stuff he now possesses. As Tom Verducci pointed out on the radio, Doc "went back into attack mode" against the Marlins. Verducci said, "The fact that he wasn't able to get his pitches over the plate [in his first two starts] suggests that maybe he was not willing to attack the plate and tried to pitch around the plate."

Following his logic, maybe it was more of an unwillingness and fear to go into the zone rather than a lack of control. "It didn't seem like he wanted to pitch on the plate...he was trying to get guys out of the strike zone."

Command

Through his aggressiveness, Halladay’s control was significantly improved. Here are Roy's walk rates in his first three games.

Roy Halladay Walk Rates
Game IP BB BB/9 BB%
4/3 Braves 3.1 3 8.1 15.8%
4/8 Mets 4.0 3 6.8 13.6%
4/14 Marlins 8.0 1 1.1 3.4%

His strike percentage also dramatically improved from 58% to 60% to 66%. Those figures in the Marlins game are better than his careers numbers in walks/9 (1.8 BB/9) and walk percentage (5.1%). His 66% strike rate against Florida equals his career average.

Movement

One area of concern continues to be his lack of movement. In a recent interview, Curt Schilling seemed to think that Roy would regain movement once he stopped trying to generate velocity. His movement returned on his curveball, which he threw 20 times (23% of his pitches and close to his career average) and which accounted for both of his strikeouts.

But his sinker and cutter lacked the same bite we have been accustomed to from Halladay, which might explain why he struck out only two hitters. That is concerning because upper 80's velocity isn't so bad on its own, but with no movement it can turn into batting practice quickly.

End Result

Overall, Halladay's outing was a huge step in the right direction. Regardless of who he faced, Halladay looked much more confident and attacked hitters rather than pitching away from the bat. His control was markedly better, he had good break to his curveball, and kept his pitch count low. Although his pitches lacked significant movement and he only recorded two strikeouts, he offered enough positives to give a glimmer of hope that Halladay can at least salvage the season.

You can also look at this way: how would you feel if he got around by the Marlins?

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