2011 Could Be Roy Halladay’s Best Season Yet

What a terrifying thought for the National League. Roy Halladay, a 34-year-old pitcher with a history of utter dominance, is beginning 2011 with the best numbers of his career, and by a wide margin. Forget the two Cy Young seasons. Forget the seven All-Star games. Roy Halladay has taken a massive leap forward in 2011, and the result is a trail of destruction blazed straight through the National League.

Halladay’s presence at the top of the pitching leaderboards is staggering: he leads the entire majors in innings, complete games, strikeouts and K/BB ratio, and he leads the NL in wins and walk rate. With this plethora of qualifications, it should come as no surprise that he also leads the major leagues in FIP, xFIP and, by nearly an entire win, Wins Above Replacement. Oh, and his 2.35 ERA is pretty good too.

Not that Doc hadn’t exhibited the total package of pitching in the past, but this year, he’s really bringing it all together. His swinging strike rate of 11% is his highest since 2002, when we first have the data, and, likely related, his strikeout rate of 9.2 per nine innings is his highest by nearly a full point since he began starting full time that very same year. His ground ball rate of 54% is his best mark since 2006. His walk rate of 1.4 per nine innings is actually a middle-of-the-road mark for Halladay, but I won’t judge him too harshly for only leading one of the two leagues in the statistic.

Of course, as with most ridiculous starts to a season, there are a few markers of unsustainable performance. Whether it’s due to good luck or an adjustment by Halladay which hitters have yet to correct for or simply two really, really “on” months, there’s no chance of Halladay continuing to only let 3% of his fly balls leave the yard. With the other two key “luck” statistics for pitchers, LOB% and BABIP, Halladay’s marks are well within reason: his 76% LOB is only about four points better than league average, and his .311 BABIP allowed is actually well worse than the league average (down at .286 so far this year).

Even with some regression on fly balls, though, Halladay could still put up some of his best pitching ever in the latter two thirds of this season. His 2.26 xFIP is by far his best career mark (2.80 last year is his previous best), as his improvements in strikeouts and groundball rate are the real drivers behind Halladay’s incredible start. If he continues to pitch like this for 22 more starts, his WAR would check in at a nearly incomprehensible 10.8, a full 2.8 wins better than his previous high in 2003. Although a bit of a cool down is likely in store, the odds are good for something that would have been considered nearly impossible entering this season: the best season of Halladay’s legendary career comes at age 34 in 2011.




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53 Responses to “2011 Could Be Roy Halladay’s Best Season Yet”

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  1. siggian says:

    “Sigh”

    /Jays fan

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  2. Nik says:

    Its obvious he’s been taking lessons from Wilson 1-0 Valdez.

    +12 Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. Dan in Philly says:

    Yeah, we like him pretty well in Philly. You might say he’s living up to his contract.

    Seriously, it’s a realy priviledge to watch him pitch week in and week out. It never gets old, we don’t get spoiled, we know perfectly well how lucky we are that Halladay wanted to pitch here.

    Smoltzie, if you’re reading this, what do you think of Citizens Bank Park now?

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    • NEPP says:

      Its a privilege and an honor to watch the man work. He’s a Hall of Famer in his prime.

      He’s simply the best pitcher in baseball. You dont realize it until you see him every 5th day and he’s always pitching into the 8th inning or simply finishing the game. He’s always in control, he’s always one step ahead and he never gives in. He’s not the flashiest guy on the mound but he simply gets it done.

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  4. Mr. wOBAto says:

    Halladay has become a transcendent pitcher.

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    • Garold says:

      He’s always been transcendent. It’s just that he’s now pitching in the NL instead of the Al East so his numbers are even more ridiculous.

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      • Mr. wOBAto says:

        I knew Roy when he threw 75MPH so lets just say I have followed his career pretty closely. He has been a top 5 pitcher for 95% of his career, his ascendancy to the clear cut best in the game has been in his 30′s

        His first year in the NL East was nearly identical two his last two in the AL east, his last four have been unbelieveable, this season especially.

        The fact that the best pitcher in baseball is also the most durable is an added bonus, as I am sure any Mets fan can tell you.

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      • AdamM says:

        No, he’s been this good since 2002. His top two WAR seasons are still 02 and 03 … when Johan was the top lefty in the AL, Halladay was the top righty. 04 and 05 were interrupted by injuries.

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      • Mr. wOBAto says:

        Right WAR is a model and he put together some big numbers his 02-03 was superior largely thanks to run environment and IP.

        His K/9 has been on an upswing and his FIP over his last 4 years is a half a run lower than from 04-07 you could argue that his 02 will always be his best season, but I happen to disagree

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      • Garold says:

        I’ve always thought that his best season was the one that was interrupted by the broken leg; I think it was 2005. He was straight up filthy that year. It’s too bad the injury happened.

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  5. Omar says:

    steroids obv

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  6. tdotsports1 says:

    The greatest thing about Halladay’s overall career stats are the luck factors. He has never had the ONE outlier season where he just got absolutely LUCKY with BABIP, HR/FB, strand rate ETC. Partially due to his ground ball tendencies, saying that, he has definitely sacrificed GBs for more Ks with great success.

    If he ever had all of those in his favour, he could post one of the most ridiculous seasons of all time (modern era).

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  7. Shazbot says:

    Musta got it from his bat. 1 single in 32 PA, with no walks. And somehow, -.6 baserunning runs.

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  8. Big Jgke says:

    SOmething that’s always amazed me about Roy is that in his rookie season (following almost throwing a perfecto as a september callup) he was so bad that he got sent down and had to completely retool his approach and delivery in the minors. That kind of thing would crush weaker men (ahem, Ankiel) but Roy just used it as a way to refine his approach and came back as a guy who, injuries excepted, has been amongst the very best pitchers in baseball every single season since then.

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    • Rustybob says:

      I remember that game. Perfect through 8 2/3 innings, then Bobby Higginson hits a pinch hit HR to break up the perfect game and the shutout. After that game I knew he’d be a star, but I was also suprised at how much he struggled for a while after that.

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  9. Obvious Troll says:

    I’m disgusted by the incessant praise you statheads give to flashy showboats like Roy Halladay. We all know that only two stats matter–wins & losses–and in both of those categories, Halladay comes up way short. I’m no Nate Silverman, but just looking at his 2.35ERA and the fact that the Phillies juggernaut offense averages slightly over 3 runs per game, it is a mathematical certainty that Halladay should never lose. And yet, he’s lost not once, not twice, but thrice this season, and likely will lose again and again and possibly again. Clearly, Halladay has failed to master the most important skill a starting pitcher can have–pitching to score. That’s why when his career is over, he will be forgotten by all but the most pointy poindexters, while true HOFers like Jack Morris will be remembered forever. It’s funny that critics rightly attack AFraud because he only hits homeruns in blowouts, but no one dares mention the number of times Halladay has padded his numbers by tossing a meaningless 1-2-3 inning in a game whose outcome has long been decided.

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    • eric says:

      well done, sir

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    • I never played baseball and read bosxcores says:

      You should talk to Orel Herscheiser….. I know it’s popular SABR theory to say it’s ridiculous that pitchers pitch to the score but it does happen sometimes.

      It may not happen all the time or a lot of the time, but to suggest it doesn’t happen is just flatout ignorant when ACTUAL MLB pitchers will tell you they do it.

      It may not make it ‘right’, you may think it is stupid, but it does happen…. you think Halladay is throwing a 3-2 curve in the 9th inning of an 8-0 game to Albert Pujols? How about in a 1-0 game?

      Runner on 3rd in the 8th inning of a 3-0 game… 3-2 pitch… what is your concern as a pitcher? How about same situation in a 1-1 game? Is the approach the same in both circumstances? Everything is context independent right?

      In the majority of circumstances the score is close enough or it’s early enough in the game where the approach will not vary that much, so when you average the #’s out you will see no mearuable difference… but a large aggregate showing no difference doesn’t mean every individual situation is the same.

      It’s the same thing with FIP based WAR… is consistency valued at all? Does it matter if Halladay consistently has 1-2 walks vs a bunch of 0 walk games followed by a 5 or 6 walk game? I think one area where he is understimated is his consistency… something that FIP is unable (and thus fWAR) to measure

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      • Antonio Bananas says:

        good thing Roy doesn’t get into many 3-2 counts and pitches to get guys out not strike them out.

        “Pitching to the score” doesn’t happen on purpose, it does happen, but it’s psychological. I’m not even sure what you were trying to validate? W/L records?

        I do agree with your consistency thing, and again, this is where I ask why we don’t just use variance, confidence intervals, you know, regular stat measures that would tell us the same thing without some guy without a stats background pulling something out of his rectal orface.

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    • Martin says:

      I’m surprised at all the +’s that Troll’s comment received. If someone pitches to score…you would expect them to have a high win % right? With 66.3% right now Halladay is pretty good to say the least…with Morris at 57.7% for his career…he is clearly not in the same league.

      Adjusted ERAs of 137 for Halladay and only 105 for Morris reinforce this.

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  10. westcoast hero says:

    Anecdotally, I do have to say he seems to always get giant strike zones. Still probably the best in the biz though

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    • AA says:

      Maddux and Glavine got giant zones too. Its because they earn them by having sick command

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      • Antonio Bananas says:

        Exactly, not only that but when you’re that good with your command, you not only work the hitter, you work the ump. You start by perfectly placing pitches early on, then work your way out and make the ump expand the zone. Jesus, with all the bitching (heard it most from cards fans) about Maddux and Glavine, you’d think umps would go in with a game plan to not let that happen. MadGlav were just that good. Halladay is almost that good….almost.

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  11. Padraic says:

    There is also the fact that he has allowed a high percentage of runs in the late innings, when he is out there when almost every other pitcher would be pulled. If he was managed by Francona, he could be looking at a 1.50 ERA so far.

    From 7-9, he’s allowed 10 ER in 18.1 IP.
    From 1-6, he’s allowed 12 ER in 66 IP.

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    • eric says:

      whoa… huge sample size there.

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    • Bender says:

      I don’t really follow the Red Sox but does Francona pull starters earlier than most? That’s funny because when he was in Philly, he would always leave Curt Schilling in waaay too long. I honestly thought he was afraid of pulling him from the game.

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    • Antonio Bananas says:

      Francona also has the luxury of a decent pen and a really good offense. I mean, when your new ponies give you a 4 run lead, it’s the 6th inning, you feel more confident. Not only that but the pitching in the AL is shit in general. Halladay is in duels most nights. Huddy/Hally was fun to watch a few weeks ago.

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  12. My echo and bunnymen says:

    I know the logic behind always giving the MVP to a position player, but I gotta ask, if Halladay keeps this up, who challenges? Joey Votto? Matt Holliday? Pujols? Kemp?

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  13. fdhjstf says:

    input this URL:
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    -37 Vote -1 Vote +1

  14. John says:

    I think the big thing this year has been his changeup. He’s commanding it this year and it’s been devastating.

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  15. cs3 says:

    “I know the logic behind always giving the MVP to a position player, but I gotta ask, if Halladay keeps this up, who challenges? Joey Votto? Matt Holliday? Pujols? Kemp?”

    Braun is in that mix too

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  16. George says:

    One of the reasons that the HR/FB is so low is that he’s faced pretty poor competition for most of this season. Back in Toronto, he’d be facing NYY/BOS/TAM every second start….and that hurts the HR/FB rate.

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  17. TheGrandslamwich says:

    I’m certainly not a fan of the Phillies, but I will drop everything when I get the opportunity to watch a Holliday start. The guy just carves batters up. 1-2 more years and he is a sure-fire HOF’er, and he probably is already.

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  18. Graeme Charles says:

    I’m not sure if Halladay is too stoked about his high strikeout numbers. Everything I know about the guy tells me that he thinks strikeouts are useless extra pitches.

    Mind you, I don’t know his pitch per innings are.

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    • Antonio Bananas says:

      I like that mindset though. Personally I much more impressed when guys pitch a shutout and only need like 75 pitches than when someone Ks 15 guys. Plus a guy who can pitch to contact will be around longer. Ks are usually because of “stuff”. “stuff” goes away with age, smarts and control take longer to fade.

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  19. greenfrog says:

    “Its a privilege and an honor to watch the man work. He’s a Hall of Famer in his prime.”

    I remember saying this all the time as a Jays fan. I don’t watch a lot of games on TV, but I would try to catch as many Doc starts as I could, just to watch a master at the top of his game. He basically puts on a pitching clinic almost every time out.

    Given that Halladay’s departure was inevitable, though, I think the Jays did well to acquire (after a couple of subsequent transactions) Drabek, D’Arnaud and Gose for him, all of whom are very promising young players.

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    • NEPP says:

      d’Arnaud is just destroying the competition in AA right now. As a 22 year old catcher who will stay behind the plate, he’s got “star” written all over him.

      .996 OPS so far in AA New Hampshire

      Drabek has been a bit rough so far but he’s gonna be solid too. It was seemingly a win-win trade.

      Gose is a bit more of a long shot but he’s improved his offensive numbers every year despite being promoted steadily and being young for his league. Not a star most likely but he could be a decent 4th OF at some point.

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  20. George says:

    Gose can be a lot better than a decent 4th OF.

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  21. Joey Votto says:

    I agree.

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