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Safest starting pitcher investment, they said. He's money in the bank, they said. Well, in only two months this season has Halladay's ERA split rested below 5.82. The 35-year-old's latest disaster came last Saturday with a five-out, seven-run meltdown. Talk about robbery.
With the right-hander's recent shoulder troubles, there was talk of shutting him down, but the Phils aren't doing that. Halladay owners - are there many left that are contending right now? - should bench him for his matchup if their standings dependence on pitching categories is significant.
For those thinking about 2013, where does Halladay stand? This past spring, many wrote off evidence of Halladay's shaky changeup and diminished velocity and movement as a mere spring road bump. A sharp April put those concerns to rest, but as the calendar flipped to May, more bad signs started to show.
A personal issue forced him to leave the team in early May, but his disappointing season, as far as we know, doesn't stem from that. He showed, even during his statistically sparkling April, some issues with pitch execution, per Rich Dubee. Doc seemed to be lucking out a bit more than usual. That would come to a halt, of course, when it was announced Halladay would miss about two months with a strained latissimus dorsi. Not long before the injury, one scout questioned Halladay's fastball confidence because he was relying on his secondary offerings.
Since coming back from the disabled list, Halladay has 69 K's in 79 frames, unfortunately tied to a 4.78 ERA. (To be fair, before his last outing, it was at 4.07, not great but not horrendous.) The biggest catalyst for his issues has been his 1.01 HR/9, his highest frequency in a full season since 1999. He lives down in the zone while keeping slightly less than elite punchout numbers, and whether it's his lagging arm strength or remaining physical woes hindering that, he's not getting the desired dip on his two-seamer and sinker or the required horizontal dancing of his cutter.
Halladay still has his pristine control, though, even if it crept much closer to 2.00 BB/9 than it has in the recent past. Regaining the confidence to let his pitches go naturally by next season will do wonders for his release point and location. Few hurlers equal his acumen for sequencing when he's on point.
Maybe Philly should've checked him out in the spring, especially since Dubee told the media he noticed something wasn't right with Halladay, who complained of "crankiness" in his throwing shoulder. Coaches often hesitate to question whether a franchise player is hiding a physical problem, even with a glaring drop-off - and the Phils stayed on the safe side. Or so they thought - smoke, fire, etc. Expect them to stay on top of his health.
For now, Halladay has no plans to undergo surgery on his pitching shoulder. He's instead likelier to change offseason routine to accommodate his advancing age and focus on regaining the oomph behind his arsenal. Maybe we'll get clarification on whether his personal leave might've affected his performance, as well.
A prudent monitoring of his spring activities will gauge Halladay's value for single-year leagues. It's hard to recommend jettisoning him in a dynasty league unless it's for salary concerns in cut-down formats. His lackluster close to the season might actually strip a little off his price, but, if he's healthy, his track record would pump up his value to the top-12 realm among mixed starting pitchers, if not higher depending on the room.
You can't comfortably play the "Draft Halladay and wait forever on pitching" anymore, unfortunately. The risk of decline and breakdown is ever so slowly creeping closer to equaling his upside, with a hint of Chris Carpenter-level trepidation.
Halladay's age-36 season will be enough of a warning that he may underwhelm those who throw top-five-SP dollars at him, but arms don't always dwindle with more rings beneath their bark. He's firmly on the other side of his career peak, but Halladay's mechanics and approach sit near the apex of all active pitchers. There's nothing wrong with him being your team's co-ace if your opponents remain afraid because of his surface stats. It's gonna take a lot for him to exit the category of "potentially perilous bargain."
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
He appears frequently, including every Sunday, on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, as well as every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.
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