The Amazing Doc Halladay and the Perfect Pitch

Illustration of Doc Halladay by Megan Lawlor

Phillies Pitcher Roy Halladay, otherwise known as ‘Doc Halladay’, traded to the Phillies this year, may just may be Charlie Manuel’s answered prayer.  Before coming to the Phillies, Halladay spent the first 12 seasons of his career as a Toronto Blue Jay.

He  immediately garnered the attention of the league  on September 20th, 1998, in just his second career start for the Blue Jays when,  in  the 9th inning   against the  Detroit Tigers’, he  debuted  with a  no hitter only broken up in the 9th inning  by Detroit Tigers’ hitter Bobby Higginson—resulting in a   Blue Jays win   with a score of  2-1.For the then 21 year old first round draft pick out of Arvada West High School in Arvada Colorado, this was an impressive beginning.

Then in 2000, after a disappointing season when he went 4-7 with a whopping 10.64 ERA demoting him to the Blue Jays class A league, he worked on altering his pitching style and making his pitches more deceptive to hitters. He was able to improve upon his high era from the 2000 season and eventually made his first all-star appearance in 2002, going 19-7.

He would go on to make 6 additional all-star games and win the CY Young award in 2003 with an impressive 22-7, with an ERA of 3.25.  A workhorse for the Blue Jays, he was leading the American league in complete games five times and this year leading the National League in that category as well.

Overall, he leads all active pitchers with a staggering 58 complete games!! This is impressive when there are specialty pitchers (middle relievers) who relieve many pitchers after 6 innings since they cannot effectively pitch beyond six innings. This statistic cannot be understated in this age of shrinking strike zones and inflated offensive statistics when steroids and other performance enhancing drugs have called many hitting records into question.

Despite Halladay’s   stats, one thing was missing– a shot at the playoffs and the chance to compete in the World Series.  Halladay made it clear that he wanted to go to a team that was in a position to compete for a World Series title. There was one caveat – Halladay didn’t want to play for a team with egos and prima donnas.  He wanted to play for a team where he could fit in seamlessly and be able to adapt without any outside distractions.  The Phillies provided a perfect match.  It was a marriage made in heaven.

Before being acquired by the Phillies, Halladay   languished on a team that failed to make the playoffs during his 12 years on the Toronto Blue Jays.  It appeared that the Blue Jays were close to pulling the trigger on a deal that sent Halladay to a contender during the 2009 season. Rumors and speculation dominated the baseball headlines leading baseball insiders to believe that a trade was imminent.  The Phillies, rumored to be competing for the services of the ace pitcher, needed to replace the void left by the departed Cliff Lee, who achieved almost cult like status after his dominating performance against the New York Yankees in game one of the 2009 World Series.  Many fans wanted the Phils to keep Lee and add Halladay, which would have been a dream tandem. The Phillies finally signed Halladay but lost Cliff Lee.

Lost in the mix was Cole Hamels, the promising enigmatic pitcher who seemed to regress in the 2009 season, in which he posted a 10-11 win/loss record. Hamels, it seemed, lacked the killer instinct and toughness needed from a guy considered to be the potential number one pitcher on the staff. When Halladay joined the Phils, there was no question who the number one pitcher was.

With the Phils, Halladay continued where he left off with Toronto by winning games and mystifying hitters with his dazzling display of pitches. He led the league in complete games with 9 while compiling an ERA of 2.44 and was the odds on favorite to win his second CY Young award. Despite his record, he is humble and approaches each game with the same philosophy that has made him successful for the last 13 seasons.

On the mound, Halladay is almost stoic and rarely changes his expression as he gets ready to deliver a pitch. Although he is never flustered;   his pitches leave hitters confounded as he mixes in an array of fastballs, changeups, cutters, and sliders– all thrown with tremendous location. A perfect example of his unbeatable style was on display   during his first playoff appearance on October 6th, against the Cincinnati Reds, whose offense led the National League going into the playoffs. Halladay kept the Reds off balance and succeeded in getting the Reds to hit into groundballs   on his way to an almost perfect game.

His impact on his teammates is already significant. Cole Hamels, often criticized for his perceived lack of desire, has shown a mental toughness this year which he   openly attributes to the influence of Roy Halladay.  Hamels attitude and demeanor have also changed.  In his post-game interview with reporter David Aldrich, Hamels sounded confident.  It could be called the Halladay effect.

Thanks to Roy Halladay, the Fighting Phils may garner their second World Series title in four years. Whether or not this happens, as of press time, it has been a thrilling ride.