I’m not asking this question just because Roy Halladay got rocked tonight. And he did, giving up eight runs in six innings, including a grand slam to Brian McCann that tied the game after the Phillies’ offense gifted Halladay with a glorious 6-0 lead.
I’m saying this because Halladay’s velocity is down, his strikeouts are down, and his walks are up. The strikeouts are normally the top indicator of a pitcher’s decline. After averaging 7.5 K/9 in 2008, 7.8 in 2009, 7.9 in 2010, and a career-best 8.5 last year, Halladay is down to just 6.2 this season. He hasn’t had a single-season total that low since 2007. Meanwhile, his walk rate is at 2.1 per nine innings, after being at 1.3 BB/9 in 2010, 1.1 in 2009, and 1.3 in 2008, all figures that led his respective league.
Halladay’s average fastball velocity in 2012 is just 89.9 after being at 91.6 last year, 92.1 in 2010, and 91.7 in 2009. His swing and miss percentage is also at just 4.8, after being at 11.4 last year, 10.8 in 2010, and 15.7 in 2009.
As long as Halladay is getting the results, some might argue it really doesn’t matter what his K numbers are. He entered tonight 3-2 with a 1.95 ERA and he leaves still having a good season, at 3-2 with a 3.40 ERA, although the ERA really jumped after the Braves hit him around. He struck out five tonight and walked none, and the grand slam was completely uncharacteristic of Halladay.
But the decline in his velocity, the decline in his strikeouts, and the increase in his walks are all frightening figures, as were the 12 hits he let up. Halladay may be dealing with an undisclosed injury, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the team put him on the DL for two weeks to if anything else, just give his arm a rest. Halladay is historically a slow starter, as he has an ERA 26 points higher in the second half of the season over his career than the first half.
Halladay is 35 years old in a few weeks and it’s unreasonable to expect him to pitch forever. He has a lot of mileage on that right arm of his, having thrown over 2,500 innings in his career. He has averaged 236 innings pitched in each of his last six seasons, plus 38 more in his playoff career. Halladay is in the second season of a three-year, $60 million contract that expires after 2013, plus a $20 million vesting option for 2014. At the end of that deal, he will be 37 years old, and he may still be going strong and he may not be.
But for now, the strikeout totals are more than a little scary. The sample size is small enough that is should improve, but if it doesn’t, it could be an indicator that Halladay is on the decline of his career.