Roy Halladay, the Philadelphia Phillies’ ace and recently crowned N.L. Cy Young awardee, is by all accounts such a genuinely modest man that he would likely never write a pitching how-to book. And this is a good thing because a modest man hates to entitle his work You Can’t Get Here from There, How I Won Cy Youngs and Why You Can’t, or the like. Halladay’s how-to would require such a title, however, because his advantages over other pitchers are, in some regards, unteachable, and in others, impervious to the sort of precise analysis that’s useful to coaches.
What are these advantages?
First, genetics. It would be silly, seemingly, to begin with this advice for young hurlers: “Start by growing up to 6′ 6″ and make sure that your fingers are long enough that none of the six pitches you’ll learn ever follows a straight line to your catcher’s glove.” Oh yes, some of that pitch movement is a matter of practice, but that’s only some of it.
Halladay’s second advantage? A work ethic that’s so over the top that it’s borderline unteachable. When informed that he had been named this year’s best N.L. pitcher, Halladay was on a golfing vacation. However, from Mexico he told reporters that he had already “started…some cardio and upper body work,” and that early in December he would be “more aggressive” on “the field down in Clearwater.” Phillies pitchers don’t have to report to Clearwater, Florida, their spring training site, until February, and for the record these remarks were made 26 days after Halladay pitched in the last game of his 2010 season. Sportscasters are fond of saying that modern baseball players train “all year round,” but for some players this is ripe nonsense. It isn’t for Halladay, though, and his work ethic this year helped to produce 21 wins, a perfect game, and a playoff no-hitter.
Finally, Roy Halladay will beat your team in all likelihood because of his ability to compete at what must be called a morally higher level. Discovery of this is a tough statistical task, but buried in a table of all of his games pitched in 2010 is the interesting fact that, in 33 starts, “Doc” accumulated only two no-decisions, and one of those was the nine-inning shutout effort that eventually became a 1-0 Phillies win over Cincinnati July 10th. In that game Halladay struck out nine and walked none.
In other words, in addition to his natural and work ethic advantages over your pitcher, Roy Halladay is not only tougher than your guy, he is tougher longer. His manager will usually leave him in, win or lose, long enough to get a decision, and two out of three times, no matter what else happens, he will win.
“Cy Young Stuff.” The Philadelphia Inquirer 17 November 2010: C7.
Ford, Bob. “Perfect Choice.” The Philadelphia Inquirer 17 November 2010: A1.