With yesterday’s post about Roy Halladay completed, I’ll take a step back from that one awesome game in the 1998 season to examine his entire career and determine whether or not he will be in the Hall of Fame. Let’s take a dive into it, shall we?
For the better part of his career, Halladay was known as a workhorse. In fact, one of the most impressive stats in his favor are complete games and shutouts. In an era of specific pitching skills and closely monitored pitch counts, shutouts are becoming a thing of the past. With the rise of the closer and set-up roles, pitchers are only asked to go six or seven innings. Going 9 innings is a rare feat and something to be celebrated, as opposed to a hundred years ago when if a pitcher did not go 9 innings, the start must have been really, really bad. Throughout his 16 year career, Halladay averaged 33 starts a year. If you do the math, out of 162 games, that’s roughly a start every fifth day, so his durability was something of a hidden gem in addition to wicked control and a relatively new pitch (cutter) to the game. What’s more impressive, though, is how many innings he would throw in a season and still be performing at a high level year in and year out. He was in the top 10 in innings pitched in 8 separate seasons, with a career high of 266. Similarly, he was in the top 10 in batters faced in 8 separate seasons.
That’s pretty good. This is even better: Halladay was in the top 10 10 times in complete games, 6 of those seasons he was first or second. 5 of those came at age 30 or later! Okay durability is one thing, but to go that late and be dominant is another. He had 4 seasons in the top 10 ranks of shutouts, including back to back #1s at age 32 and 33. Going the distance is awesome. Holding the opponent scoreless is also impressive. Combining the two made him a fearsome competitor. The only way to get to him was small ball and pray a ball finds a hole, because runners rarely stole and he rarely gave up home runs.
Excluding his last two seasons, which were uncharacteristically sloppy, his career ERA was 3.23. He racked up 203 wins and only 105 losses. He rarely walked any batters (his strikeout to walk ratio led the league 5 times, with a career high of 7.30).
Stats are great, but let’s look at the big picture. He won two Cy Youngs, one in each league (one of only 5 pitchers ever to do so – Gaylord Perry, Pedro, Johnson, Clemens). He also finished in the top five in voting five other times (runner up twice). He was selected to 8 All-Star teams (6 AL, 2 NL). Another stat that I find particularly interesting is that he was the Opening Day starter for 10 straight seasons, 2003-2012. Had it not been for an injury plagued offseason between ’12 and ’13, he may have added one more.
He also threw two no-hitters (both in 2010, one of which was in the playoffs), just adding to the fact that he was a solid pitcher late in his career.
Now, that said, he never won a ring. Some of that could be blamed on playing in the best division in the game for the first 12 years of his career. The AL East, featuring the Yankees and Red Sox, and more recently, the Rays and O’s, almost always sent two teams to the playoffs in the archaic 4-team format. During Halladay’s tenure in Toronto, there were only three years in which the AL East did not send two teams to the postseason (some combination of Yankees, Red Sox, Rays). He did not have the supporting cast around him to make it happen – that’s not a slight at the early millennial Jays, that’s just a fact. When he switched to the NL, however, the Phillies made it to the NLCS in 2010, losing to Giants, and lost to the Cardinals in the NLDS in 2011. He does not have extensive postseason experience (3-2, 2.37 ERA with a no-no), but he was equipped with a better team around him to go the distance.
He also gave up his fair share of hits throughout his career. While his strikeout to walk ratio and home runs per nine were awesome, his hits per nine was not. The average for his career was 8.7 and sometimes inflated as high as 14.2 for a season. He allowed over 200 hits every single time he pitched over 200 innings; his worst season (in terms of hits) suffered 253 hits. That was also his first Cy Young winning season. I’m not quite sure what to think.
I’d give him the nod if I had a vote. Pitching in the AL East, its impressive that he only had one losing season. Then switching to the NL East with the powerful Braves and rising Nats, again he only had one losing season (2013 in which his shoulder just said ‘no more, Roy’). I think seeing pitchers this durable is so rare anymore, and for that reason I think he deserves to be remembered forever.
So congrats, Harry Leroy Halladay, you have the approval of a 21-year old independent baseball blogger (woo!).
Thanks for reading, folks. Enjoy the heat wave.