This is not good. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
It’s understandable if you’re panicking about Roy Halladay right now.
We all totally get it. It’s justified. You are not crazy if you only got three hours of sleep last night, tossing in turning in your bed, replaying last night’s 9-2 loss to the Braves in your head over and over again, remembering the difficulty Halladay had with, well, just about everything.
The man who was once the invincible staff ace looks downright human right now. The man is struggling to reinvent himself as a pitcher, and it’s pretty hard to watch.
There were plenty of negatives, that’s for sure. He failed to make it out of the fourth inning last night. He gave up six hits, five runs and three walks in 3 1/3 innings against the Braves, and struggled with his location all night long. And perhaps there was one thing in particular that was more concerning than any of the home runs or hard-hit balls that Halladay gave up last night.
It was not the type of debut anyone was hoping for.
So yes, it’s understandable there would be panic. I feel like panicking too. And thankfully, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman was here to help.
Thanks Jon. We need you on that wall. Now, please go back to sniffing paint thinner for the next couple hours.
Still, last night’s start by Halladay was unusual, and there were reasons to be a bit optimistic after the panic and worry had finished washing over everyone.
Halladay’s fastball sat between 88 to 90 mph, touching 91 and 92 on occasion. That’s better velocity than Halladay had at almost any point last year, and is certainly fast enough to get Major League hitters out if he’s locating his fastball and cutter.
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen last night, mainly because Roy has lost confidence in the two pitches that have made his career to this point.
"“Every pitch doesn’t have to be on black,” Halladay said last night, talking about his fastball and cutter location. “I just need to be down (in the strike zone) and we’ll be more efficient. That’s something that needs to be addressed quickly. As far as arm strength, I feel I can open it up and not try to be so fine, which I’ve always done. I need to open it up a little and let movement and everything else take care of itself. I need to be more aggressive in the strike zone and make them put the ball in play.”"
And at times, Roy certainly did make a free-swinging Atlanta lineup look plenty foolish.
Those nine strikeouts (eight of them swinging) prove Halladay still has swing-and-miss stuff. Unfortunately, while Halladay did strike out nine Braves in less than four innings of work, he only recorded 10 outs total. He also ran three-ball counts on eight of the 19 hitters he faced. It took him 40 pitches to make it through the first inning. In short…
It’s also important to remember that Halladay is trying to re-invent himself without the catcher with whom he has a long-standing relationship.
Carlos Ruiz is suspended for the next 23 games, with Erik Kratz behind the dish calling the pitches. And if you don’t think there’s a big difference there, you’re kidding yourself.
And that’s precisely what’s happening right now. Roy is over-thinking every pitch. How many times does Halladay usually shake off Chooch? Not very often. There is a symbiotic trust between the two and now, when Roy needs him most, Carlos is not there to help him through this transition. That fact was not lost on Halladay last night.
"He wasn’t happy about either home run pitch. Gattis’ home run came on a mistake, Halladay said. The Upton home run came on a 1-2 pitch that he was “not fully committed to.” Catcher Erik Kratz set up down and in on Upton. In retrospect, Halladay said he should have come up and in on Upton to set him up for something away. Kratz is filling in for starting catcher Carlos Ruiz, a Halladay favorite. Ruiz is serving a 25-game suspension for testing positive for a PED."
When a pitcher is not confident on the pitch he’s about to throw and is second-guessing himself, bad things are going to happen.
This is not to make excuses for Halladay. His performance last night was not acceptable. The Phillies need him to be much better if they’re going to go anywhere this season, and you can be sure he knows that. Still, the decision-makers said they were reasonably pleased with what they saw last night (per Salisbury).
"“I was oddly encouraged,” said GM Ruben Amaro. “Any time you can get that many swings and misses it’s a good sign. The stuff was good. He just didn’t command it in the strike zone. He still needs reps with some of the mechanical changes he’s made.”Charlie Manuel concurred.“I’ve seen improvement the last three times out,” he said. “I still think he’s going to be OK. The velocity is improving. We’ll see.”"
It’s also important to remember the rainy conditions last night in Atlanta and that his spring training got thrown out of whack by a stomach bug that cost him 10 pounds. He’s a bit behind the other pitchers, so it’s not surprising he’s still trying to find his way through this.
Still, for so long, everyone viewed Roy Halladay as if he were some indestructible pitching cyborg capable of destroying a city with simply the glare of his eyes. To see him struggle like… well…
…is disconcerting to say the least.
The Phillies have not gotten off to the start they’ve wanted to here in 2013. The first two games against Atlanta featured two starters who were not ready for prime time, an offense that was OK in the first game, non-existent in the second, some bad defense, and an Atlanta offense that is flat-out scary good.
But it’s just two games. And, it’s just one start for Roy Halladay.
The hope is he can learn from the mistakes he made last night and use them in his next start. The hope is that he is encouraged by the nine strikeouts and the improved velocity on his fastball. The hope is he is a little more confident in that fastball and cutter and stops trying to nibble so much next time out. The hope is that he can keep the ball down and out of the “happy zone” next time around.
The hope is that he remembers he’s Roy Freaking Halladay, and that he owns.
Because watching Roy Halladay last night was sad and depressing. We want to see the confident Roy Halladay. The good one. The one that looks like he knows what he’s doing.
Thankfully, there’s plenty of time to turn it all around.