In Remembrance of Roy “Doc” Halladay

Harry Leroy Halladay III was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays with the 17th overall selection in the 1995 MLB First-Year Player Draft.  He was barely 18 years old at the time.  Throughout his time in the minor leagues, the pitcher, who now went simply by Roy Halladay, was a coveted prospect, reaching as high as #12 on the Baseball America Top 100 prior to the 1999 season.  Halladay surpassed rookie limits during the 1999 season, but the following year is generally more remembered as the anecdotal beginning of an eventual Hall-of-Fame-caliber career.  Among all pitching seasons with at least 50 IP, Halladay’s 10.64 ERA (48 ERA+) in 2000 was, and still is, the worst of all time.

The next season was much kinder to Halladay, as he posted a 145 ERA+; in 2002 he made his first AL All-Star team.  The first of two Cy Young awards “Doc” would receive came in 2003, when he pitched 266 innings and had a 3.23 FIP, along with an rWAR of 7.55.  The next two seasons were injury-plagued for Halladay, and he pitched a mere — by his standards — 274.2 innings in them combined, while running a 142 ERA+.  Fully healthy over the next four years, Halladay averaged 233 IP, never contributing fewer than 220 in a season.  In that stretch, only CC Sabathia produced a higher fWAR than Halladay, who was also first in IP, sixth in ERA, and eighth in FIP among all qualified pitchers in that span.  Halladay was performing at an elite level over a huge volume of work.  Doc Halladay was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies after the 2009 season.

This is where everything becomes more personal to me.  As a Phillies fan, I can clearly remember my middle-school self watching Halladay start many games for my favorite team.  The fondest of these memories is from the 2010 season, May 29 to be exact.  On that night Halladay took the mound opposing then Florida Marlins ace Josh Johnson.  Johnson was excellent that season, leading the NL in ERA and the MLB in FIP.  My 10-year-old self knew the game would be something spectacular.  Indeed, the game was spectacular.  The Phillies won 1-0 behind a complete game with 11 Ks from Halladay.  He had pitched a perfect game.  Later that season came an even more famous performance from Halladay.  He tossed a no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds in Game 1 of the NLDS, only the second postseason no-hitter in history.  Sure, the Phillies would later fall in the NLCS, but the magic of Halladay’s season never was forgotten.  He won his second Cy Young that year.

However great 2010 was, my clearest memory of Roy Halladay pitching comes from 2011.  United with Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt, Halladay led the Phillies to 102 wins that season.  Unfortunately, what I remember best is Game 5 of the NLDS.  With the series tied at 2 games apiece, the Phillies handed the ball to Halladay for the deciding Game 5.  The Cardinals countered with one of Doc’s best friends, Chris Carpenter.  In total, just one run was scored in that game.  Rafael Furcal led off the game with a triple, and scored when the next batter, Skip Schumaker, doubled.  No more runners would cross the plate.  All told, both pitchers had incredible games.  Halladay had a game score of 72, 44% better than a league-average start.  The bitter portions of the memory are linked not to Halladay, but to the futility of the Phillies offense.  Roy Halladay could transcend even the bitterest of memories.

Time and age eventually caught up to Doc, and he did not pitch well in 2012 or 2013, seasons that were riddled with DL stints.  He retired following the 2013 season, and consensus in the industry was that he would be standing in Cooperstown giving a speech five years following this.  Additionally, some predicted that he would return to the game in some manner, as a pitching coach or something of the like.  First, however, he would take a few years to himself to pursue other interests.  Unfortunately, one of those interests was piloting, and, as fate would have it, he will never give a Hall of Fame speech.  Halladay loved flying planes, often tweeting about it.  Hauntingly following the advice of a quote attributed to several people, what he loved killed him.

In a 16-year MLB career, Roy Halladay compiled 2749.1 IP, 2117 K, a 65.4 rWAR, a 3.38 ERA, and a 3.39 FIP.  But does that really matter?  What matters is how Doc touched the lives of people around him.  It is cliché to say someone was a better person than they were a player, but he really was, and that’s saying something with his résumé.  Whether it was taking care of his family, being a good friend, providing a strong role model, or going to the Philadelphia Zoo with a persistent fan, Halladay improved the lives of those around him.

Goodbye, Roy “Doc” Halladay.  You truly did make the game better for all of us.  We are all so lucky to have been witnesses to your career and life.  You will be sorely missed.



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