Batter's Box Interactive Magazine Batter's Box Interactive Magazine Batter's Box Interactive Magazine

By Mike Green, Bauxite emeritus

The hallmarks of Roy Halladay’s career have been precision, dedication and durability.  2010 was just another great year for him.  It looked superficially like his best year, as he went 21-10 with a 2.44 ERA and 30 walks and 219 strikeouts in 250 innings. It wasn’t really though, as he had moved to the weaker league, and run-scoring was down in both leagues in 2010.  The most important addition to his Hall of Fame portfolio was probably the playoff no-hitter, his second of the season. 


Roy Halladay was drafted by the Blue Jays out of high school with their first pick, the 17th overall, in 1995. 

 He made eight mostly successful starts in the GCL that year, although he lacked the precision control he would later develop, walking 16 in 50 innings.  He followed that up with a very good year at age 19 in Dunedin, and if you looked really carefully, you could get a glimpse of the pitcher he would become as he allowed only seven homers in 164 innings while walking 46 and striking out 109. 

In 1997, he opened the year 2-3 with a 5.40 ERA in seven starts in double A Knoxville and the club (rather strangely) promoted him to Syracuse.  He was so-so there, walking 53 while striking out 64 in 116 innings.  He returned to Syracuse for another 22 starts in 1998, going 9-5 with a 3.75 ERA but again with a pedestrian W/K rate.  He did however earn a September cup of coffee with the big club, and man was that memorable java.  On September 20, he threw 5 decent innings, but on September 27, he took a no-hitter to the ninth until Bobby Higginson broke it up with a homer.  Still, anyone who saw the game or listened to the radio broadcast could just feel the excitement that is there whenever a player who may turn out to be great gives his notice. 

His major league career was not a straight line to greatness.  He pitched well enough in the rotation in 1999, going 8-7 with a 3.92 ERA, but his 79/82 walk/strikeout rate were a warning about what was to come.  He simply did not have it in 2000, and was battered around by the league, and went back to the low minors to learn again.  With the help of a sports psychologist and Mel Queen, he re-emerged better than ever in mid-2001 and has not looked back since.  The only real hiccups have been a right shoulder injury in 2004 and a leg injury sustained on a line drive back to the box in 2005.  Otherwise, he is everything you could possibly want in a pitcher- efficient with devastating stuff and great control.  He annually leads the league in complete games, has the best control, keeps the ball in the park about as well as anyone, and can get a strikeout if he really needs it. 

Before turning to Halladay’s Hall merits and chances, a refresher on comparing pitcher statistics across eras is in order.  Much has been written about the deadball era, and in particular, how the absence of a real home run threat allowed to pitchers to save their best stuff for high leverage situations and thus throw many more innings (as well as post gaudy earned run averages).  So, to take an example, Stan Coveleski through age 33 posted very similar ERA+ and IP numbers to Halladay, but he was in fact nowhere as good.  His age 28 season appears to be a great one- 311 innings pitched, and a 164 ERA+.  When you understand that he gave up 2 home runs in those 311 innings (of a team total of 9 during the whole season) while walking 76 and striking out 87, it is easy to appreciate that it might be a whole lot easier to throw 311 innings in 1918 than for Halladay to throw 250 innings in 2010.  Coveleski completed 25 games that year, which ranked him 5th in the league (with 8 teams and 4 starting pitchers per team). 

The thing is that it is essentially a continuum.  We think of the 1930s as a hitter’s decade, and to some degree it was.  But, the shape of it put less stress on pitchers.  Take a look at the league averages in the chart below for Dizzy Dean and Lefty Gomez- K rates and HR rates were essentially half the rate that they were during Halladay’s time and that is without taking into account the relative ease of striking out pitchers.  For Dean to throw 310 innings with 25 complete games was, in my view, less difficult than for Halladay to throw 250 innings with 9 complete games.  For Marichal to throw 300 innings with 25 complete games was no more difficult than for Halladay to throw 250 innings with 9 complete games.

The other aspect is that as home runs, walks and strikeouts play a greater role in run-scoring (as they have during Halladay’s era), the importance of pitching as opposed to defence in run prevention increases.  A 136 ERA+ is more impressive during 2000-2010 than it would be from 1980-1990 or 1960-1970 or 1930-1940. 

With all that out of the way, let’s turn to the honking big chart.  Some of the names are BBRef comparables for Halladay (Oswalt, Mussina, Key, Hubbell and Saberhagen).  Some are there to illustrate short career patterns (Stieb, Gomez, Dean, Newhouser, Guidry, and Koufax).  Some are there because of similarities once you adjust for era (Marichal and Spahn).  And some are there on a whim.


IP to 33/after


WAR car.

K rate/lg.

W rate/lg.

HR rate/lg













































































































































Arguing that Halladay is on a Hall of Fame path does not really seem a challenge, but the Bert Blyleven odyssey suggests that it is worth a paragraph or two.  The only pitchers among this august grouping that one could say Halladay might be slightly behind would be Marichal, Gibson and Hubbell, and even that is arguable. He most certainly has been considerably better than Lefty Gomez and Hal Newhouser (once you adjust for Newhouser’s advantage during the war). The most comparable pitcher to Halladay is none of the above, though.  He’s a tall right-hander with great control who started his pitching career late, was very effective through his 20s and then took a leap forward when he moved to a better environment in his early 30s and kept up his effectiveness well into his 40s.  You may not have heard of him.  His name is Denny Young, and he isn’t real.  Rather, he is the product of the fertile imagination of Steve Treder who tried to imagine how Denton True (Cy) Young might have developed had he born at a different time.  Check out the description and stat line of Denny Young and see if you can see the similarities.

If Halladay throws another three good seasons, he will pretty clearly be in, and the odds are in his favour.  It should be noted that Halladay now has a 169-86 record and snaking over 200 wins will help the voters come to the conclusion that he was great.  It should also be noted that Halladay achieved the impressive W/L record and ERA+ while being the first Hall of Fame quality starter to really get bitten by the unbalanced schedule, in addition to playing in the stronger league.  In his career, he has faced Red Sox hitters over 1100 times, Yankee hitters over 1000 times, Rays hitters over 900 times and Orioles hitters over 800 times (and the other clubs save the Rangers 350-450 times), and posted pretty good numbers against all of them.  He’s 32-22 lifetime against the Sox and Yankees with 13 complete games in 75 starts. 

What about if his career were to end right now?  On merit, he would make it although he would not be overwhelmingly qualified.  His peak and prime would be plenty high enough, and his career would be just over the line (Stieb, Saberhagen and Pierce are all in the Hall of Merit, and Halladay has been clearly better than all three).  As for the inclinations of Hall of Fame voters, your guess is as good as mine.  I think that he is seen as the best starting pitcher of the aughts and that would probably win him some votes and the playoff no-hitter certainly helps.  If his career ended suddenly and unexpectedly (as it did for Kirby Puckett), I am pretty sure that he would get in easily.  If he had arm problems and came back to throw 250 crappy innings over 3 seasons, I would venture a guess that he might have to wait a long time.  Blah, even discussing this thought leaves a bad taste in the mouth. 

So let’s get to the fun part- soup and predictions.  For the late fall, it’s onion soup:

Slice 4 large onions thinly.  Saute the onions in 2 tbsp. butter over medium heat for 10 minuts. Sprinkle 2 tsp. mustard powder and 2 tsp. thyme.  Turn the heat down to low and simmer the onions in their own juices covered for an hour.  They should be slightly browned.  Add 1 and ½ cups vegetable stock, 2 and ½ cups water, 1 tbsp. soy sauce, 2 tbsp. white wine and cook for 20-30 minutes.  Serve with grated extra old cheddar.

Inhale and pronounce-Roy Halladay’s final career statistics:

4050 IP, 302-166 W/L, 133 ERA+

The Doctor will see you in the Hall after surgery … | 15 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Mick Doherty - Monday, November 08 2010 @ 02:11 PM EST (#225142) #

Great piece Mike. Two points ....

1. The only place I disagree with you is in your last line -- I don't think Doc gets anywhere near 300 wins, but he's going to cruise in first-ballot anyway.

2. How DARE you put together that recipe without "doctoring" the mix with a healthy dash of "Halladay Sauce"???  :-)

Mylegacy - Monday, November 08 2010 @ 02:46 PM EST (#225147) #
Mike - that is a wonderful piece of work! Bravo maestro!

Our Doc is quite the piece of work, n'est pas?

mathesond - Monday, November 08 2010 @ 03:19 PM EST (#225149) #
Vegetable stock for onion soup? Sorry Mike, it's gotta be beef stock (or a mix of beef and chicken). Also, you should let us know if you're using fresh or dried thyme, as it affects how much the recipe calls for...
Mike Green - Monday, November 08 2010 @ 03:29 PM EST (#225151) #
Dried thyme.  A meat stock would probably be better, but there was a vegetarian in my household for so long that I have gotten used to cooking with it.  I make a homemade vegetable stock that is quite rich (more actual vegetables rather than peels and such).  The result here is an onion soup that is lighter than the traditional but with plenty of flavour and body. 

Besides, when you're talking about Doc, you want to make the healthier choice!
Matthew E - Monday, November 08 2010 @ 03:55 PM EST (#225154) #
I've mentioned this before, but I remember watching a Jays game on TSN where Shulman and Martinez were comparing the three young Toronto starting pitchers.

Martinez: Carpenter's the most polished, but Escobar has the best stuff.
Shulman: What about Halladay?
Martinez, Shulman: (laughter at the very thought that anything they could say would be sufficient to sum up Halladay's potential)

Weird what sticks with you.

DaveB - Monday, November 08 2010 @ 05:19 PM EST (#225156) #
Great work, Mike. I've been looking forward to this since you started dropping hints about it last month (detecting the smells of a good soup simmering in the kitchen, I guess, vegetable stock or not).

Nice to mention Blyleven but I don't think there is any doubt Roy is on path to the Hall of Fame and, barring catastrophic injury, will put up the raw career numbers that make him an easy selecton. I find your career prognostication for him somewhat optimistic. It will be a challenge for him to pitch half again as many innings in the remainder of his career as he has posted to date. I can see him putting him up another 100 wins over the next six years, but at that point he will be approaching 40 and probably close to calling it a day.

Parsing all the numbers is difficult and still somewhat subjective. I revert to comparing the best of Player X vs. the best of Player Y when trying to come up with my lists of bests, and part of the comparison is based on personal impressions (if I've been fortunate enough to have seen them) rather than statistics. Koufax, for example, retired at 30, had five great years, a sixth that was very good. Brilliance in his case trumps longevity, at least in my opinion, and I don't think it's a disservice to Roy to suggest that at his best he is not as dominant a pitcher as the "Left Arm of God". For his last six years Koufax put up numbers that are matched by few if any pitchers over a similar uninterrupted length of time. He averaged a WHIP of under 1.00 and more than a strikeout per inning in that stretch. The only other pitcher on this list I would consider clearly better than Roy is Gibson, who combined brilliance with longevity. Having seen Fergie Jenkins pitch when he was with the Cubs, I would say he and Roy are similar in most respects but with Roy, at his best, being more unhittable than Fergie. Close call though. Roy is a bit more intimidating to both hitters and umpires and can work a strike zone, and extend it, better than anyone I've seen apart from Greg Maddux.

Great job and I enjoyed it tremendously.

Chuck - Monday, November 08 2010 @ 05:41 PM EST (#225158) #
I ha've cited these numbers before, just for kicks...

Halladay 169-86, 2297 IP, 136 ERA+
Koufax 165-87, 2324 IP, 131 ERA+
DaveB - Monday, November 08 2010 @ 06:08 PM EST (#225162) #
Very similar career numbers Chuck, the only difference being how they were compiled. The last six years of Koufax career are: 129-47, 2.19 ERA, 156 ERA+, .970 WHIP, 9.4 K/9 IP, 54.5 WAR and three Cy Youngs. He retired after arguably his best season.

bpoz - Monday, November 08 2010 @ 07:20 PM EST (#225169) #
I remember listening to the FAN the day he was drafted and Jim Shakey Hunt asking him about his pitching arsenal and he said 93 mph FB was one of his pitches. I believe his FB eventually went up to 96mph.

Often my memory get mixed up and I am grateful for the corrections. Like Nasty Boys played for Cinci not the Mets.

Anyhow all these 17 year old picks sure change. Grow 5-6 inches, Ok not all, then A Sanchez 90 mph in spring to 95 mph in the Fall. Mechanics etc must really get out of wack, I wonder how Randy Johnson was.
Mike Green - Monday, November 08 2010 @ 07:27 PM EST (#225170) #
Halladay is considerably better than Fergie, who had a career ERA+ of 119 as of age 33.  The major difference is that Fergie annually led the league in HR allowed, while Doc is the best, or near to it, in the league most years.
AWeb - Monday, November 08 2010 @ 07:55 PM EST (#225172) #
The last six years of Koufax career are: 129-47, 2.19 ERA, 156 ERA+, .970 WHIP, 9.4 K/9 IP, 54.5 WAR and three Cy Youngs.

The last six seasons for Halladay - 102-47, 2.91 ERA, 150ERA+, 1.09 WHIP, 28 WAR, 1 Cy Young (assuming this year) + 4 top 5 finishes in a league twice the size. Not that Halladay has been as good, but given the different eras (extra starts and innings make WAR of questionnable use for pitchers when comparing eras, in my opinion), he's not that far off what is acknowledged as one of the best stretches ever (Pedro now leads that unofficial metric after his surreally good years). And this excludes Halladay's 2002 and 2003. On a side note, how did Halladay not even get a Cy Young vote in 2002?
Mike Green - Monday, November 08 2010 @ 08:13 PM EST (#225173) #
There are only 1st, 2nd and 3rd place votes for the Cy Young.  In 2002, 3 veteran starters (Zito, Pedro and Lowe) had comparable years to the young buck (Doc).  They got all the votes except for 1 solitary third place vote for Jarrod Washburn.  Actually, Halladay (like Denny Young) had a better year than the winner Zito...
Jonny German - Monday, November 08 2010 @ 09:54 PM EST (#225179) #
Good stuff Mike. How do you like the chances of Halladay in the Hall with a Toronto hat?
AWeb - Tuesday, November 09 2010 @ 07:57 AM EST (#225185) #
I think Halladay has a respectable chance at winning 300 games (better than anyone active except Sabathia). First, it's a given that a 300 game winner will stay mostly healthy in his mid-to-late 30s (unlike HR and 500, you can't make it 10% of the way each good year as a pitcher). Looking at some of the recent guys to make it to or near 300 wins from ages 34-39:
Steve Carlton - 106-58, ERA+ of 122
Greg Maddox - 97- 53, ERA+ of 126
Roger Clemens - 101-40, ERA+ of 137 (* on this guy, obviously)
Nolan Ryan - 75-59, ERA+ of 110 (got a lot of wins in his 40s)
Tom Seaver - 69-54, ERA+ of 104 (piled up wins in his 20s)
Tom Glavine - 88-68, ERA+ of 121
Randy Johnson - 106-46, ERA+ of 167 (and this includes a bad year for him)
Mike Mussina - 88-51, ERA+ of 111

Obviously these are selected from the best-case scenario group, but having Halladay at 250-270 wins at age 39 is reasonable, making 300 quite reachable.
Mike Green - Tuesday, November 09 2010 @ 08:41 AM EST (#225186) #
Well, Jonny, I am kind of hoping that Doc returns for a 2nd shift (ouch) here and gets a ring or two, which would more or less clinch it.  Dreams aside, I doubt Philly's ability to be a perennial contender, and so I anticipate that Doc will move on after a much shorter stint there than here.  I say that he goes in with a Blue Jay cap. 
The Doctor will see you in the Hall after surgery … | 15 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.