Yes, I know, Roy Halladay says he’s fine.
And normally, what he says would carry around a fair bit of weight. After all, this is Doc, one of the best pitchers in the game over the last decade, that we’re talking about here.
…but what if — even just for the sake of playing devil’s advocate — he’s not fine?
After being demolished (even by Spring Training standards) by the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday for a whopping seven runs on six his and four walks over 2.2 innings, all the focus was on the health of the eldest of the Philadelphia Phillies‘ trio of aces.
Even worse than the line score is that Doc’s velocity, which had already been at an alarmingly low 89-91 mph range, decreased even further, settling around 84-85 mph and topping out at 87.
Halladay says he’s fine. Philllies pitching coach Rich Dubee says he’s fine. The radar gun, however, says he’s anything but.
Let’s just say that Halladay gets hurt again, or is ineffective all season long. Are the Phillies prepared to compete without the 35-year old?
Well, the answer is mixed. Philadelphia does have a couple of decent enough arms in the back end of the rotation in Kyle Kendrick (3.90/1.27 ERA/WHIP, 1.2 fWAR), and John Lannan (4.13/1.44, 0.5 fWAR over 32.2 IP), but obviously, neither one — or both combined — could be even close to replacing what a healthy and effective Halladay will bring to the table.
If you were to wipe him out of the rotation right now, the team’s options are not great. The Phillies currently have Rodrigo Lopez and sinkerballer Aaron Cook in camp with the team on minor league deals, but it was likely that the team would part ways with both unless needed.
Though it’s conceivable that both could be counted on to their share of innings, neither should be looked at as an above-replacement pitcher at this point of their careers.
The pitcher down on the farm isn’t exactly particularly eye-opening either. The team could go with arms like soft-tossing Tyler Cloyd, who posted a strong 4.29 K/BB in his 33 innings with the team last year, but his 2.18 HR/FB ratio does not inspire confidence.
There’s also 22-year old Jonathan Pettibone, who has made just seven starts in Triple-A, all coming last season, and struggled with his control upon arrival. He could be in the mix, but you couldn’t say he’s ready.
So it seems that either way you look at it, the Phillies may be on the hook for the 6-8 wins that a healthy Halladay could be worth in 2013.
Is that something they can make up elsewhere? Sure — a healthy offense, including Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, would be huge. If Michael Young can return to his younger days, and if the team can finally get that breakout from Domonic Brown (who is on a tear in spring), this offense can make up the loss in pitching.
That’s the thing, though — it’s a lot of ifs, and not a lot of solid answers.
The Phillies have not won a World Series since they’ve relied on having multiple ‘aces’ in their rotation. In 2013, that model of team-building will be put to the test more than ever.