Roy Halladay’s Quiet Season of Greatness

As you know, Phillies ace Roy Halladay made his final start of the 2011 regular season on Sunday, tossing six scoreless innings against the Mets to help the Phils snap their eight-game losing streak and run his record to 19-6. The Doc lowered his 2011 ERA to 2.35, the best full-season mark of his career, and his three strikeouts on the day gave him 220 for the season, also a career best.

Yet somehow I feel like I missed it. Very few of Halladay’s starts stand out for me this season; on the good side, an early-season game he finished against the Nationals when it looked like they were going to get him and his complete-game win against the A’s during interleague play, on the down side his almost-literal meltdown against the Cubs, when he left with heat exhaustion. By contrast, I could give you detail on a bunch of Cliff Lee shutouts and other starts, a handful of Cole Hamels gems and the happy surprise of Vance Worley, even some Roy Oswalt games as he’s shown signs of finding his form down the stretch. Halladay—quiet, undramatic, remorseless—just wins. My overall sense of him this year is in games when he might not have had his eater-of-worlds stuff, got into trouble early and maybe surrendered a run or two in the first, yet made it through seven innings with two or three runs allowed. Yet the numbers don’t hint at gritty adequacy; they shout utter dominance.

So, for anyone else out there who fears he or she might have somehow failed to appreciate what has to be one of the twelve or fifteen best single-year pitching performances in the Phillies’ long history, here are some notes and highlights from Halladay’s season:

  • Doc’s record and ERA by month: 4-1, 2.14; 3-2, 3.00, 3-0, 2.00, 3-1, 2.57; 3-1, 2.62; 3-1, 1.70.

  • His highest ERA after any start this season was 2.83, following his third start (a 9-0 loss to the Brewers). Otherwise, he hasn’t finished a start with a cumulative 2011 ERA above 2.57 all season.

  • Halladay lost back-to-back starts just once this season, on May 10 and 15 to the Marlins and Braves respectively. His combined line in those two defeats: 16 innings, 3 earned runs (1.69 ERA), 13 hits, 4 walks, 16 strikeouts. Yeah, he probably should have gotten to 20 wins.

  • Overall in his six losses, Halladay pitched to a 4.12 ERA, allowed a .260/.304/.367 line, and had 3.33 strikeouts for every walk. Again, those are numbers in the six games where he took the loss.

  • In the 25 Halladay starts when the Phillies scored at least three runs, his record was 17-1.

  • You know the Phillies won 14 straight Vance Worley starts. They also won ten straight Halladay starts, from May 20 through July 8. To my recollection, nobody made a big deal about this.

  • The first hitter who faced Halladay in his 32 starts went a collective 14 for 31 (.452) with a walk. Everybody else went 194 for 838 (.232).

  • Halladay failed to go at least six innings exactly twice in his 32 starts. He went at least eight in 13 starts.

  • Halladay finishes the year with his sixth straight campaign of at least 16 wins and 220 innings. His record over those six years is 109-49.

Will Halladay win his second straight Cy Young Award for the Phillies and third in his career? Probably not. Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw likely wrapped it up Sunday with his 21st victory of the season to go with a 2.28 ERA and 242 strikeouts. (This isn’t the place for that argument, by the way; I know Kershaw’s home/road splits are worse, he was worse in the first half when the Dodgers needed him most, et cetera. Again, not the point.)

Award or not, though, there’s no word for this but greatness. Six days from now, Roy Halladay will take the ball in Game One as the Phillies start the playoffs; in the fundamentally uncertain world of post-season baseball, I can’t think of anything that could inspire more comfort. 

 

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