A lot of people -- fantasy baseball players, fans of the Philadelphia Phillies, some scouts and perhaps even some members of the Phils -- are worried about Roy Halladay. The three big reasons are his:
- greatly diminished velocity, which dates back to the spring of 2012
- shoulder injury that sidelined him for more than six weeks in 2012
- awful results in 2012, this spring and in his first start, on Wednesday
Doc has to take his medicine
Fangraphs' Jeff Sullivan did an outstanding job of breaking down the two-time Cy Young Award winner's first 2013 outing. Halladay's lower release point could, somehow, very easily be related to his struggles. I'm not concerned about the slot of his arm as much as I am the way his bottom half appears to be dropping.
In the first image that Sullivan provides, as well as in moving images of his first official start of 2011, one can see that his big ol' rump stays up, thanks to a plant leg with less bend in it. It looks as if Halladay's stride on Wednesday against the Atlanta Braves is longer than it used to be. His dropped-down bottom half would naturally create a lower release point -- relative to the ground, not to his body.
Where he lets it go in relation to the ground is important because the plane of his offerings would be different -- basically, it would be closer to flat while approaching the hitter. Halladay is still aiming for the same spots, but even when he's on point, his sinker and cutter aren't diving and darting so much. That could help to explain why he had so little success with -- and less desire to use -- his fastballs.
Anyway, I'm no expert. We have what we have to go on. ESPN's Jayson Stark gave us an anonymous scout's take, which doesn't contain much of what hopefuls want to hear. Halladay told the Daily News' David Murphy that he's "going to fix it," which is what hopefuls want to hear, but if they choose to believe him, are they kidding themselves?
I don't think that Halladay is injured. I'm worried that, if he doesn't make some minor mechanical adjustments, then he'll end up that way, however, either because of his faulty delivery or greatly increased inefficiency.
If he doesn't incur an injury, I'm optimistic that he'll "reinvent" himself. He'll work his tail off to figure out what's wrong, because that's the type of person he is. Coming to terms with his limitations, mentally, is probably the greater challenge, for him. This process could take a long time.
Halladay is accustomed to a certain level of success -- a level of success to which relatively few pitchers in the history of the game can lay claim. At 35 (and soon 36), he is, unquestionably, no longer the pitcher who achieved that level of success. Facing the reality of such a substantial fall isn't easy for anyone, let alone a pitcher whose routine and consciousness are almost entirely committed to his craft and who could use a number of recent experiences as excuses for why he just hasn't gotten back there yet.
His physical ailment last season turned out to be related to a lat strain and wasn't necessarily a sign that his arm is about to fall off. This year, the Phils eased him into exhibition action. A couple of weeks into ST, he believed that he was going through a dead phase (and he and pitching coach Rich Dubee were concerned only with Halladay's mechanics). Then a stomach virus forced him to exit a spring outing early and to lose about 10 pounds as well as put his first turn in jeopardy. But, of course, no one keeps Doc from heading in to the office, so of course he was going to make that start.
Considering all that, it's somewhat remarkable that Halladay's velocity on Wednesday was better than it was at any time in spring training. Which, I think, is a reason to maintain a positive outlook on the whole situation ... at least for the long term. Doc is still not at full strength.
What he looks like once he reaches that point -- and, more importantly, when he embraces his new mode -- may still be a pretty good pitcher, even for fantasy owners. Do they have the patience to wait and see? That's another matter entirely. In a deep league where a person of great patience can bench Doc with ease and without penalty, Halladay would be an interesting player to target for pennies on the dollar.
About Nicholas Minnix
Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.
The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.
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