This season, the Philadelphia Phillies are 6-10 and much of that has to do with their underachieving starting pitching. This season, the team has an ERA of 4.84, good for 28th in the league. Last season, they were 11th in team ERA. The year before that, they had the best team ERA.
One contributor to that has been Roy Halladay. Two seasons ago, Halladay went 19-6 with a 2.35 ERA. Last season, he was 11-8 with a 4.49 ERA. This season, in his first two starts, he was 0-2 with a 14.73 ERA. Though Halladay was able to bounce back in his last start, you need to take it with a grain of salt as he was facing the lowly Miami Marlins lineup.
But let’s take a closer look at Halladay’s decline from two years ago. In 2011, two of his most effective pitches were his cutter and his two-seam fastball. On his cutter, opposing hitters hit .237 and his average velocity on that pitch was 90.6 mph. This season, on that same pitch, his average velocity is down to 88.6, and opponents are batting .583 against that pitch. On his two-seam fastball, in 2011, opponents hit .280 and the pitch’s average velocity was 91.9 mph. This season, that same pitch has lost more than two mph as it now sits at 89.6, and opponents are batting .429 against it.
What these numbers tell me is that Halladay still believes he is a power pitcher, but no longer has the velocity on his pitches to blow the ball by hitters. Though there is still a small sample size, Halladay will need to make a major change in his approach if he wants to continue to be in the upper echelon of pitchers.
One way in which he has demonstrated a change in approach is his increased use of the curveball. In his Cy Young Award winning season in 2010, Halladay’s curveball was the fourth most frequently used pitch. This season, he has thrown one fewer curveball than two-seam fastball, his most frequently used pitch. This strategy has paid off as in 15 at-bats in which Halladay has used his curveball, only one of them has gotten a hit.
Halladay will look to build on his success from his last start against the Marlins tonight against the St. Louis Cardinals.