Last night Roy Halladay took the ball for the 5th time since shoulder surgery sidelined him for 112 days this year. It was probably his best outing to date, and while I don’t mean to diminish Doc’s effort or performance, it was the Miami Marlins. As we pointed out in the Phils vs Marlins preview, Miami averages less than three runs per game on the road.
Miami’s .627 team OPS is the worst in major league baseball since the Blue jays posted a .617 OPS in 1981. Last night’s Marlin lineup included four rookies, and with the possible exception of Christian Yelich, none of them look to be budding stars.
Doc’s fastball is still sitting in the 86-88 mph range with very little movement. It was the fastball he used so effectively, both as an out pitch and to set up his other pitches that made him so tough. Last night Doc relied heavily on breaking balls and changeups to get through six innings in 99 pitches.
Being staked to a 3-0 lead after three innings allowed Doc to go after hitters with a little more aggression than usual. He threw his highest percentage of strikes (62.6%) since his return, which is somewhat encouraging, but was offset by three walks, a hit batter (Doc’s 6th in his last four starts) and only two strikeouts.
Halladay’s inability to get hitters swinging and missing was highlighted by the fact that he only had six swinging strikes the entire night. Doc appeared frustrated at times, like a man who’s mind is telling him one thing while his body is telling him another. It must be hard on a man who’s been so great, for so long, to now struggle just to be service-able.
It’s obvious we’re not going to see what Halladay is capable of until next spring. What’s not so obvious is where Doc will ply his craft next year. Was last night Doc’s final start as a Phillie in Citizens Bank Park?
His two remaining starts starts are scheduled to take place in Miami and Atlanta. Pitching against the Marlins doesn’t tell us much and Doc’s last outing against Atlanta is scheduled for the 2nd to last day of the season. Depending on the playoff picture, the Braves may might not be starting many of their every day players as they gear up for October baseball.
It’s doubtful Halladay will show much more in his next two starts than he has in his last five. Interim manager Ryne Sandberg believes that with an offseason throwing program “he can gain some velocity.” The two questions we have are how much velocity can he regain, and will that bring back the late movement on Doc’s pitches that made him so deadly? We won’t know until next year, and therein lies the dilemma on whether or not to resign Doc this winter.