Halladay Versus Cincy

In his second (and final) season as Reds manager, Davey Johnson led his 1995 squad to its first playoff berth since their 1990 World Series victory. He then saw his team advance to the National League Championship Series against the juggernaut Braves. A sweep resulted with Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, and Greg Maddux inflicting most of the damage and Steve Avery finishing the series with six shutout innings. Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels might not be on the level of those first three names, but the Reds have their hands full if they hope to engage the Braves in a NLCS rematch 15 years later.

Everyone knows Halladay’s numbers are impressive. His name is equally intimidating. How does he do it? Superb fastball command allows Halladay to use his fastballs nearly three-fourths of the time while avoiding the middle of the plate and the upper part of the zone. Imagine the strikezone as a series of nine boxes. Now ignore the top row and draw a block-shaped U in the bottom two rows. Within that figure is where Halladay locates 75-80% of the time he throws a pitch in the zone.

Unlike many pitchers who use their changeups exclusively against opposite-handed batters, Halladay throws his off-speed pitch versus both hands at equal rates. Same with his breaking pitches. He lives to throw down and in (or away) against southpaws and northpaws alike. It should come as no surprise that Halladay’s career groundball percentage is over 50% versus both and nearing 60% versus lefties. The Book suggests that groundball pitchers generally own groundball hitters (and the same holds true for flyball pitchers and hitters), meaning Halladay is a nightmare for groundball-heavy lineups.

While the Reds are near the bottom of the league in team offensive groundball percentage, their lineup does not seem to be one built for combat with Halladay (not that many are). The Reds’ leadoff hitter is Brandon Phillips, who happens to be an extreme groundball hitter. Phillips’ career .705 OPS versus pitchers with groundhog stuff suggests he falls into the “generally” category when it comes to groundball hitters being muted by groundball pitchers.

From there, the Reds will bat Orlando Cabrera second. Now, far be it from me to question Dusty Baker’s lineup-making expertise, but Cabrera’s season-best on-base percentage is the .322 that he posted in late May. Cabrera could not even manage an above-average on-base percentage after the first few plate appearances on the season. That leads to Joey Votto who has the same career OPS versus groundball and flyball pitchers (.934) and then a combination of Scott Rolen, Jay Bruce, and Jonny Gomes which tend to fare better than the guys in front of Votto, but not as good as Votto himself. Drew Stubbs and both catchers are also groundball hitters (although only slightly for Stubbs) which plays into Halladay’s hands as well.

Obviously that does not guarantee every groundball hitter as an out or anything, but the Reds have a collective line against groundballers this season of .253/.324/.390 compared to .272/.340/.450 versus flyball pitchers and .284/.346/.452 versus neutral pitchers. That gives them the lowest OPS against groundballers among NL playoff squads and places them at 16th overall. Unsurprisingly, Halladay completed 17 innings against the Reds this season with 19 strikeouts, one walk, and four earned runs. Too small of a sample size to mean much at all, but given what we know about both sides, there could very well be a sequel to those starts in this series.

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25 Responses to “Halladay Versus Cincy”

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  1. Utah says:

    Very good read.

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  2. Tim says:

    Heat maps please!

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  3. phoenix says:

    the triple slashes in the last paragraph were a good addition

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  4. danny-o says:

    Great article. It will be fascinating to see how those match-ups shake out.

    Unrelated note– you use the words “southpaw” and “northpaw”– can a batter be a “southpaw”, or more precisely, is it correct to refer to a batter as a “southpaw”? I’d always thought of it as a term used exclusively for pitchers, and then maybe colloquially for people that are left-handed, but never for batters. Also, is there even such thing as a “northpaw”? I’ve never heard a pitcher referred to as a “northpaw”, let alone a batter.

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  5. Nathaniel Dawson says:

    Halladay pitches mostly in a U-shaped pattern at the bottom of the zone? Could be, but can you tell us the basis for your observation? I do remember one pitching plot for Halladay from earlier this season that looked like he threw to the middle as much as to either side.

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  6. Eem says:

    One of this season’s better moments for Halladay, aside from the perfecto, was when rookie pitcher Travis Wood took a perfecto into the 9th against the Phillies, but Halladay threw 9 SHO innings and basically put the kid in his place.

    Phils won in extras.

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    • Ryan says:

      If by “put the kid in his place” you mean that for that night Halladay was outperformed then yeah, he “put the kid in his place”

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      • Eem says:

        No, I mean “put in his place” in terms of pure anecdotal awesomeness. Nothing more, nothing less.

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      • Jack says:

        Perhaps “Halladay wasn’t having any of it” would have been a better choice of phrasing.

        Nonetheless, his point is taken. Awesome game for Halladay (and Wood).

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      • Ryan says:

        No prob, us Arkansas boys just stick together is all.

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      • Shazbot says:

        The awesome part was that he mentioned in a later interview that he thought the kid out-pitched him, and was glad he could keep the game even.

        Halladay know luck.

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  7. mgarner543 says:

    The Reds got 13 hits off of Halladay (more than hes ever given up in one game) in their first meeting and handed him the lose. Yes, Halladay is one of the best pitchers in baseball, but that doesnt mean the Reds wont hit him. They have been one of the best offenses all year and shouldn’t be underestimated just because they are going against a great pitcher. There is a good chance the Reds will get a couple off Halladay. The key will be which Edinson Volquez shows up.

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  8. Phantom Stranger says:

    Halladay puts as much movement on the ball in the strike zone as any pitcher in baseball, that is how he has risen to the top. It allows him to throw less balls and be more efficient than other pitchers.

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    • NEPP says:

      Doc is a machine. I dont know how he does it. I assume there’s a terminator under skin/uniform. His greatest ability (other than amazing movement/control) is that he never gives in to a hitter. It could be a 3-0 pitch in the 9th inning when he’s up 10 runs and he’d still paint the outside black and then come back and force the guy to ground out weakly. Very few pitchers have that bulldog mentality. Schilling was like that, Pedro was like that, R. Johnson was like that.

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  9. opisgod says:

    “Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels might not be on the level of those first three names,”


    Maddux had 8 WAR to Halladay’s 6.8, the disparity much smaller if Halladay didn’t have the fluke luck of 1/5 of September flyballs leaving the park

    Oswalt and Smoltz both take 4.7 WAR

    and Hamel’s 3.9 to Glavine’s 4.4.

    Blah blah blah different offensive era not as many power hitters therefore higher WAR blah blah.

    But were not talking careers here obviously. But really their pitching niches are scarily similar.

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    • frozendesert says:

      You go ahead and take 00’s Halladay, Oswalt, and Hamels; I’ll take 90’s Maddux, Smoltz, and Glavine.

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      • olo567 says:


        Are you building a team for a retirement home then?

        I kid, that top 3 was really dominant. Still, the Braves did “take” them for quite a while, and it didn’t guarantee anything. I wonder what they could have done if it wasn’t for the offensive outburst due to steroids.

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  10. NEPP says:

    The Reds can win this series. It wont be easy but anything is possible in a short series.

    It wont be easy against Halladay, Oswalt, Hamels though.

    Oh and the Mid-90s Braves staff had 3 sure fire HOF pitchers on it while the current Phillies staff is not quite at that level. Maddux was one of the top pitchers in history. Besides which, the Braves 4th pitcher on most of those teams (be it Avery, Milwood, etc)was also very very good. I think their Team ERA+ was something like 130+ a couple of those years…as good as Doc has been this year, Maddux easily matched him in the early to mid 90s and Glavine/Smoltz were a match (at worst) for Oswalt/Hamels. I’d take the mid-90s Braves pitching over pretty much any team other than the ’69 or ’70 Orioles (3 of the top 5 CY vote getters were in their rotation in ’70) or maybe, just maybe, the ’65 Dodgers simply because Koufax could reliably pitch 3 of 7 games in a series with Drysdale going at least 2…though that is more a tip of the cap to Sanford than anything.

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  11. kbless says:

    I remember reading in the SI baseball preview that one of Doc’s goals going into a season was to have more starts than walks. He simply does not walk people. His control of all of his pitches is what I think makes the difference between him and other pitchers. He will throw a breaking ball in any count from 3-0 to 0-2.

    2010- GS 33, BB 30

    That’s simply incredible.

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    • Dan says:

      I read recently that Doc was the first pitcher since 1932 to walk 30 (or fewer) batters and throw over 250 innings. Don’t know if that’s right or not, but regardless it was an epic season-long performance from him. I guess people were looking at Cliff Lee’s historic performance and not noticing one that was slightly less good but still insane.

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  12. MrNegative1 says:

    I bet Halladay throws a no-hitter tonight :)

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    • blackout says:

      Ha! Nice. Even as a Reds fan that was a heckuva game to watch and I was happy for Halladay. A truly excellent pitcher. Bring on the Little Roy.

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