Roy Halladay might be able to pitch effectively this year. Then again, he might not. No one knows what this former Philadelphia Phillies‘ ace is capable of doing in 2013. What’s most unsettling is that “Doc” himself doesn’t have any current answers.
It’s easy to be deeply disturbed by the thought of this great right-hander peering over the edge of his career cliff. But, there are many instances where middle-aged pitchers simply stopped being effective. Of course, the definition of “middle-age” is always subjective.
Halladay’s rapid decline began last year and appears to have accelerated during spring training. However, it’s likely that this ongoing process was continuing through those invisible offseason months.
Arm strength is one major difference between pitchers from yesterday, like Steve Carlton, and those of today. Carlton didn’t face pitch counts when he was growing up, while he was working his way through the minor leagues or when he was mowing down guys like Dave Parker.
When I was young (insert various other middle-aged man cliches here if you prefer) I used to throw a few hundred balls every single day, even if I wasn’t playing in a game. I was never a great player, or even a good one. But, I had a strong arm because I consistently built up my arm strength over the course of many years.
Simply transfer my 1970s routine, which was also the pattern followed by many baseball-loving kids, to a legitimate major league prospect.
Carlton was 19 when he was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1963. Let’s just say that he had a more rigorous path to the pros than someone like Cole Hamels did. “Hollywood’s” left arm has been treated like a precious metal since he was riding those California waves.
“Lefty” went on to throw almost 4,800 effective regular season innings from 1965-84, because his overall conditioning process was superior than today’s major league pitchers. Yes, it was superior and he stayed in shape without the use of performing enhancing drugs as well. That’s not a shot at Halladay, or Hamels, as neither is known to have ever used any banned substances. But, many modern pitchers surely have.
Halladay is considered a “workhorse” in today’s world, even though he’s only thrown over 200 innings during eight of his 15 major league seasons. He’s also amassed slightly less than 2,700 total regular season innings in his career.
Carlton topped the 200-inning mark 14 times and the 300-inning mark twice during his 24-year career.
Modern baseball logic has been driven by agents and the players’ union forcing specialization, especially where pitching is concerned, into the game. Staggeringly increased salaries, as willingly paid by the fans and provided by ownership, have turned baseball into something different than what it used to be.
Halladay’s name is big, but his story is very common. If he’s heading for a career crash, there will be no mystery as to why it happened. His arm simply gave out at a time in his career that is generally comparable to others in his current peer group.