There are plenty of concrete reasons why the Phillies have played so much better the last two nights in San Francisco.
The starting pitching has been good. The relief pitching has prevented comebacks from occurring. And the offense has suddenly come to life, hitting the ball with more power and getting key hits with runners in scoring position.
The Phillies seem more focused, although much of that can be attributed to a more productive offense. Those two things usually go hand-in-hand.
But is there something more at work? Something unquantifiable? Something unseen?
Is it possible the Phillies are playing better because of Roy Halladay‘s injury?
It seems ridiculous to think the Phils would go on a winning streak after one of their key pitchers goes on the DL with what could turn out to be a career-ending shoulder injury. Halladay met with Dr. Lewis Yocum on Tuesday, and results of the test won’t be known until Wednesday at some point. A negative diagnosis of Halladay’s shoulder would seemingly be killer news to a team that was relying on their starting pitching to help them contend for the playoffs.
And certainly, Tyler Cloyd, who will take Halladay’s spot in the rotation for the time being, is a huge downgrade from what a healthy Roy Halladay would have been. The Phils are definitely not a better team with Cloyd starting baseball games every fifth day.
But there certainly seems to be some awareness in the clubhouse that Halladay may never come back. And if that turns out to be the case, there looks to be a sense the Phillies think they can elevate their game to make up for their lost superstar.
“Obviously, we hope that it’s not as big of a deal as I think everyone might think it might be,” Cliff Lee said after Monday night’s game. “Hopefully it’s something minor and he’s able to get back.”“Obviously, Doc’s been one of the best pitchers over the past 10 or 12 years in all the big leagues. Missing a guy like that is definitely going to be tough on us, but injuries happen. You don’t want it to happen. Definitely not him. We all know that. That’s something that happens.
“He’s pitched a long time, fired a lot of bullets. I hope it’s not major and it’s something minor and he’s back in a couple weeks and jumps back on board. But until then, we’ve just got to keep on grinding.
“Even if he’s gone forever, there’s nothing we can do. We’ve got to go out there and continue to pitch and try to give the team a chance to win every time you take the mound. All of us.”
Kyle Kendrick, last night’s starter, agreed.
“We’ve just got to step up,” Kendrick said. “Obviously you hate to lose a guy like that. He’s been good for a long time, so everybody has to step up more by themselves. For us as starters, we’ve just got to try to give us a chance to win every game. That’s all you can do. Try to pitch as deep as you can.” – quotes per CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury
It’s a tale as old as sports. A key player goes down and the rest of the team rallies together and plays with more passion and inspiration to make up for their lost comrade. And in a sport like the NFL, where emotion really does play into a team’s performance on the field, that kind of thing can and does happen.
Trouble is, in baseball, the season is just too long to sustain that kind of emotion. It’s 162 games. Not only that, emotion is only as good as the next day’s starter.
Tyler Cloyd is not going to become a strikeout-per-inning pitcher because Roy Halladay got hurt. Michael Young and Ben Revere are not going to ground into fewer double plays because Roy Halladay is injured. The Phillies are not going to get on base more or get more hits with runners in scoring position because Roy Halladay may be “gone forever.”
Some of those things may happen, but not because the ghost of Roy Halladay is in the room inspiring his teammates to play better.
After all, last year the Phillies went 15-26 when Halladay was on the disabled list. However, they were also playing with a Chase Utley and a Ryan Howard that were nowhere near as healthy as they are now.
It’s possible there will be a short-term boost from this. It’s possible the Phils will play a bit better for a few days because of the loss of Halladay. Maybe they will “step up” their games a bit, concentrate more, do a little more film study, and spend a little more time in the cage.
Perhaps a greater sense of urgency and a realization that there is no room for complacency will help the Phils play better. But any ethereal effect that may come from the specter of Halladay being gone forever likely won’t last once the weather gets really hot and the season turns into the grind that it is.
But hey, baseball is a game played by people with emotion and feelings. I won’t discount the notion entirely. And, if the Phillies truly do turn it on in the wake of Halladay’s absence, it would be fair to ask why they couldn’t have played with this “increased effort” before Halladay went down.
Still, if the Phillies go on a winning streak and want to point to losing Roy as their rallying point, so be it.
As long as they’re winning, they can believe whatever they want.