It wasn’t necessarily intentional, but what a contrast it was: two pitchers, separated by more than a decade’s worth of years in age, sharing the mound with their careers going in opposite directions.
On one side, there was Matt Harvey, emerging ace of the New York Mets, dominating for his second straight start; on the other was the Philadelphia Phillies‘ Roy Halladay, an elder statesman of the game and long considered perhaps the best pitcher of his generation, struggling in a way that he hadn’t experienced since he was, well, around Harvey’s age.
All athletes see their skills decline eventually, of course, but the downward spiral has hit Doc much more quickly than expected.
The righty had just come off a career-best 8.0 fWAR season when the injury-shortened downer of a 2012 happened. Halladay wasn’t the same pitcher then, and he certainly wasn’t the same in Spring Training leading into 2013, where velocity issues continued to plagued him.
He was fine, he claimed, backed be pitching coach Rich Rubee — and the Phillies would be, too.
Well, after his second loss and Philadelphia’s 2-5 record to start the season, the situation is anything but fine. Halladay lasted less than five innings once again in his second outing, giving up seven runs on six hits (including a homer) and three walks through four-plus innings of work.
Mets batters had little trouble teeing off of the former ace (.353 BAA) as he struggled to locate his pitches, and Halladay ended his day with a 14.73/2.45 ERA/WHIP on the season — something that he hasn’t seen since he was a 23-year old in his second full season with the Toronto Blue Jays.
There was a solution then, though: the team sent him to the minors, and he came back with a vengeance the following year and didn’t look back … until now.
The Phillies aren’t afforded such an easy choice, of course. Halladay is 35-years old now making $20 million in 2013, and he’s going to have to stick on the big league roster. The problem? The Phillies simply don’t have time to wait through his struggles.
Two starts isn’t a huge deal, and if there’s any bit of the ace still left in Halladay’s arm, even having it resurface once in a while through a mediocre year would at least give the team a fighting chance. Going out and getting blown out as he did, however, is going to eventually push the team’s patience to to its limit.
But what can they do? They could try to trade the righty, but that’s unlikely to yield any real results unless the team is just handing him away and eating a chunk of the salary. Moving him to the bullpen doesn’t work either, as Halladay doesn’t have typical one-inning stuff.
Could they skip his next start and see if he can work it out? That may work, but if this is legitimately a concern caused by a continued dip in velocity, it’s hard to say whether that would solve the problem.
In the end, the Phillies are a bit stuck here, and have to go back to what they know — trust that an All-Time great like Halladay can make the adjustments and work himself out of it for just one more year.
If not … well, that 2-5 start is probably going to be more indicative of the rest of their 2013 season than it looks when it’s all said and done.