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Phillies comprehensive first half review

Gonna table flip?

Analyzing Roy Halladay's start against the Braves, cause for concern?

Roy Halladay

Wow he smiles!

In my previous blog post I took a look at Roy Halladay’s past five starts were he has put up less than ace like numbers, albeit still respectable.  At the end of that post I mentioned we’d take another look back at if this trend continues, which it did yesterday after Halladay gave up 3 runs in 7 innings.  So let’s take a closer look how the Phillies 20 game winner performed last night. (Note: the following is a very in-depth look at Halladay’s performance inning by inning.  If you want the short version, skip down to the “What I Liked” section)

Inning by Inning Summary

1st: After watching Roy in the first inning it looked like the Braves were doomed.  As easily as Cole Hamels and Brad Lidge took care of Bobby Cox’s crew the night before, Halladay somehow made it look easier.  He got Infante to ground out on a first pitch sinker, hit strike one to Heyward, then one ball and then an easy grounder to Howard at first.  Prado was up next and after taking a first pick strike, he quickly grounded out to Polanco at third.  So in review: 6 pitches, 5 strikes, and all first pitch strikes which resulted in 3 groundouts.

2nd: Roy started McCann off with two strikes, but got into a full count after not getting a few close calls on the corner of the plate.  Fortunately, Roy jammed McCann on the 8th pitch for a foulout.  Derek Lee was up next who swung at a first pitch sinker and neatly grounded it between Howard and Utley for a single. McClouth was up next but didn’t last too long.  After getting ahead 0-2 with hard stuff, Roy struck him out on a third pitch changeup.  Last up was Gonzalez who was swinging at everything Roy threw towards the plate and after getting behind 0-2 to Halladay and fouling three pitches off, Alex grounded out harmlessly to Polanco at third.  In review: 2 groundouts, 1 strikeout, and one groundball single.

3rd: After a long bottom half of the 2nd inning, you could tell Roy wasn’t as sharp.  He got behind Ankiel 2-0 and then 3-1 before walking him.  You could really see the disgust on Halladay’s face as he really hates to walk guys, but especially the #8 hitter with the pitcher up.  Fortunately for him, Minor is either really terrible at bunting, can’t read signs, or a combination of both, because after taking a first pitch curveball strike, he swings at a fastball to ground out to Utley for a double play.  Infante was up next and after getting ahead 0-2, Roy made a questionable pitch, throwing a fastball that caught way too much of the outer third of the plate.  Infante jumped all over it and hit an opposite way line drive single to right field.  Last up was Heyward, and after falling behind 2-0 and unable to locate his fastball inside, Halladay got him to fly out to Werth in right.  In review: 1 walk, 1 groundout double play, 1 line drive single, 1 flyout.

4th: Roy started the 4th with a 3-0 lead thanks to Jayson Werth’s massive 3-run homerun so you are thinking Roy will really come at the hitters to have a quick shutdown inning.  After getting ahead of Prado 0-2, Halladay tried to make him chase, but ultimately lost him to a walk.  Again, something you could tell really bothered him.  Next up was McCann who he started with strike one, but then got behind 3-1.  Fortunately, Roy got McCann to flyout on his next pitch so no harm done.  Lee followed McCann and quickly got ahead 3-0 as Roy struggled with finding his arm location.  Halladay again worked out of it by throwing two consecutive strikes before finally getting Lee to line out to right.  McClouth was the final batter and Roy got him to groundout to Utley after getting ahead 1-2. In review: 1 walk, 1 flyout, 1 lineout, 1 groundout.

5th: This is the inning things unraveled a bit for Roy Halladay.  After getting behind to Gonzalez 2-1, Roy gave up a hard double to right.  Ankiel was up next and after getting behind to him as well 3-1, Ankiel hit an opposite way groundball single between third and shortstop to put runners on the corners and no one out.  Roy really picked it up here with Hinske pitch hitting and after getting ahead 0-1, got him to groundout to Utley for what would have been a double play, but Ankiel’s hand deflected Valdez’s throw.  In some circumstances that could have been called interference or even moving out of the baseline, but unfortunately the Phillies didn’t get the call so a run scores and there is one out with a runner on first.  Roy then quickly got ahead of Infante 0-2 before getting him to flyout to right on a 2-2 pitch and then followed that up with an absolutely nasty 4 pitch sequence to Heyward to strike him out looking with a fastball on the outside corner. In review: 1 hard double, 1 groundball single, 1 groundball out (should have been double play), 1 flyout, and 1 strikeout.

6th: For me, the 6th inning was Roy Halladay’s worst inning of the night. Prado starts off by looping Roy’s first pitch for a single a single to right field and McCann follows by hitting a 2-1 fastball that caught way too much of the plate deep to right in which Halladay was really fortunate didn’t leave the ballpark.  This put runners on second and third with no outs.  The next sequence to Lee was both bad and good for Roy.  After falling behind 1-0 to Lee, Roy threw a sinker in the middle of the plate.  Lee was able to sky it center to score the run.  Fortunately, McCann made a stupid mistake of trying to tag from second to third and was thrown out by a mile.  The final batter McClouth got ahead of Roy 2-1 after taking a first pitch strike, but chopped a grounder up the middle which Halladay snagged to throw him out.  In review: 1 bloop single, 1 crushed double, 1 flyout resulting in a double play thanks to McCann’s mistake, and 1 groundout.

7th: Unfortunately the 7th inning was not much better than the 6th for Roy and it was clear this would be his last inning.  After getting behind 2-1 to Gonzalez, Roy got him to hit a hard liner to Ibanez in left.  Roy got even on Ankiel 1-1 before he also flied out, this time to Werth in right.  Next up: Braves rookie Freddie Freeman. After 8 pitches in the inning, Roy either lost focus here, threw a bad pitch, or a combination of both.  Roy threw him a fastball middle in for the first pitch and Freeman didn’t miss it, crushing it to near the visitors bullpen for a homerun.  Very upset with himself, Roy got behind Infante 2-0 before coming back to even the count 2-2.  His last pitch was one of his better ones though, a cutter on the inside corner that froze Infante for a strikeout.  In Review: 1 lineout, 1 flyout, 1 mammoth homerun, and 1 strikeout.

What I liked: 1st-4th innings

Roy was very aggressive with the hitters, getting ahead of most of them.  Of the 8 ground balls through the first four innings, only one was hit for a single, which is excellent. Roy did issue two walks in these four innings, a line drive single, and one lineout, but overall he performed well. Distribution of outs through 4 innings: 7 groundouts (1 for DP), 2 flyouts, 1 lineout, and 1 strikeout.

What I didn’t like: 5th-7th innings

What concerned me here was not that Roy got hit or that he gave up runs, but rather the fact there were mistakes made that I believe could have been avoided with better pitch selection and focus.  In the fifth inning Roy got his groundball DP, but Ankiel got the favorable call after his arm deflected Valdez’s throw. Roy only gave up one run and worked around it.  The sixth inning was really bad.  Not only did he fall behind Lee 1-0 to start, he left a fastball in the middle of the plate for him to elevate for the sack fly.  Fortunately, McCann made an out trying to tag from second.  The problem here was that Roy should optimally either be trying to get a groundball to the left side of the infield, a popup, or strikeout.  Either way, in this situation you need to pitch Lee low and inside to get him to pull or to jam him for a popup.  Instead, Roy’s pitches were up and in the middle of the zone.  My next major issue came when Roy gave up that bomb to Freeman.  Roy was willing to give up walks because he didn’t give in when behind in the count.  For some reason, he gift wrapped this pitch trying to go inside to Freeman to get ahead in the count. Either way it was a terrible pitch and/or lack of focus.  Distribution of outs from innings 5-7: 2 groundouts (1 should have been DP), 2 strikeouts, 3 flyouts (1 for DP), and 1 lineout.

Pitch Selection

Here is the table from my previous post on Roy Halladay’s pitch selection from his previous five games.

Pre-Selection % Post-Selection % Difference
Cutter 25.6 26.2 +0.6
4-seam Fastball 23.6 18.2 -5.4
2-seam Fastball (Sinker) 22.9 26.2 +3.3
Curveball 16.9 18.8 +1.9
Change-up 10.9 10.5 -0.4

And now here is Roy Halladay’s pitch Selection last night via TexasLeaguers.com.

Last Night Selection % Previous 5 Starts Selection %
Cutter 16.5 26.2
4-seam Fastball 25.2 18.2
2-seam Fastball (Sinker) 31.1 26.2
Curveball 12.6 18.8
Change-up 14.6 10.5

Conclusions/Observations

  • In the last three innings Roy Halladay threw 4 first pitch strikes to 13 total batters and was ahead or even in the count at the time an out was made 3 times out of the 13 batters faced.
  • Of Roy’s 9 final outs, only 2 were ground balls (22%). Of his first 12 outs, 8 came from ground balls (67%).
  • Roy had 3 strikeouts versus the Braves, his fewest since his first start of the second half.
  • After I speculated whether Roy was using his Curveball too much and not throwing enough 4-seam fastballs in a previous post, he goes the opposite direction in this start.  Roy’s 4-seam fastball is his second most used pitch while his curveball is least used.
  • Despite this, Roy’s 4-seam fastball was a strike only 50% of the time, batters only swung at 19% of them, no one whiffed at it, and it was put in play 11.5% of the time.
  • Roy’s cutter was a strike a whopping 88% of the time, swung at 53% and put in play roughly 41% of the time.
  • Halladay’s changeup was his whiff pitch totaling 20%.
  • Although it was his least used pitch, Roy’s curveball was a strike 61.5% of the time, third best among his pitches thrown.  Additionally, no batter put Roy’s curveball into play.  The problem: hitters were only swinging at it 38.5% of the time, fouled it off 38.5% as well, and did not whiff once against it.
  • Roy’s Curveball had an average of -0.35 inches of vertical movement and 3.84 inches of horizontal movement in this start.  In his previous five starts, his curveball averaged -0.92 inches of vertical movement and 5.80 inches of horizontal movement.
  • From Andrew Davis of ESPN Stats & Information:
    • His fastball was good when he located it away from the middle of the plate. Halladay threw 52 of 75 fastballs in or away, which resulted in the Braves going 3-12 with two strikeouts.
    • Halladay threw 15 changeups, and the Braves couldn’t get a hit. They were 0-3, missing 42.9 percent of those pitches. In Halladay’s last four starts, he’s thrown an average of 15.8 changeups and opponents have hit .077 (1-13).
    • When Halladay got ahead in counts, he kept the Braves down. Atlanta was 1-10 with three strikeouts, breaking a streak of four games where opponents had multiple hits in counts Halladay was ahead.
    • No Braves player reached scoring position until the 5th inning against Halladay. At that point in the game, the Phillies led 3-0.

Final Thoughts

While Roy Halladay performed fairly well last night, I think it might be time to be somewhat concerned.  It is extremely evident Roy struggled through the final three innings with his command; he was unable to get ahead of hitters and throw strikes of equal quality like he did in the first four innings.  This resulted in less ground balls, and we all know ground balls are very good.  Additionally, Roy’s strikeouts were down as more hitters were putting his offspeed pitches in play or fouling them off.  In my opinion, this begins and ends with Roy’s curveball, which was used infrequently in this start and continues to not get as many swing and misses from hitters during this 6 game streak.  The lack of movement on Roy’s curveball last night could be just a fluke, as some pitches work better some nights than others, fatigue, or a mechanical problem.  Regardless, curveballs are more effective the more they move, and Roy’s certainly isn’t moving as much as previously in the season.  After watching last night’s start and how Roy faded in the final three innings plus the overall body of this 6 game streak, I think its time to start to be concerned about Doc Halladay.  In other news:

#RoyForCy


Roy Halladay is fine, but this is interesting.

So yesterday I asked Bill Baer over at CrashburnAlley if the Phillies should be concerned about Roy Halladay given his performance in his last 5 starts which look something like the following: 17 ER, 9 HR and 41 hits to the tune of a 4.41 ERA.  Yikes, that’s not very appealing.  Bill tweeted:

Roy…also has 30:3 K:BB, .320 BABIP, and allowed 9 HR with 48 FB (19% HR/FB). He’s fine.

Well that’s certainly reassuring.  Looking at his BABIP and an absolutely insane HR/FB% you can easily see there is definitely a lot of bad luck going on over Halladay’s past five starts.  To further ease my nerves, I checked Halladay’s adjusted stats and found he still leads all major league starters with a 2.89 xFIP according to FanGraphs and is tied with Jered Weaver with a 2.88 SEIRA according to Baseball Prospectus, which is also best in the majors among pitchers with a minimum of 175 innings pitched.  Finally, Doc sports an impressive 7.50 K/BB ratio which is second in majors behind that guy Cliff Lee.

While I would normally call it quits there, I was feeling  inquisitive so I decided to dig a little deeper.  Pulling up Halladay’s Pitch f/x data via TexasLeaguers.com, I compared Halladay’s performance from the start of the season to his start on August 20th against his five starts from August 25th to September 15th.  Now I am well aware five starts is an extremely small sample size, but if there is something strange going on we might be able to see it.

Pre-Selection % Post-Selection % Difference
Cutter 25.6 26.2 +0.6
4-seam Fastball 23.6 18.2 -5.4
2-seam Fastball (Sinker) 22.9 26.2 +3.3
Curveball 16.9 18.8 +1.9
Change-up 10.9 10.5 -0.4

In his past five starts Halladay has reduced the use of his 4-seam Fastball by 5.4%. To compensate for this, Halladay is throwing his Sinker, Curveball, and Cutter more often respectively. What is more interesting from this table; however, is that Halladay’s Curveball has become his third most frequent pitch during this most recent five game sample, topping his 4-seam Fastball 18.8% to 18.2%.  So is this significant?  To try answer that question, let’s look deeper.

Pre-Strike % (Post) [Difference] Pre-Swing % (Post) [Difference] Pre-Whiff % (Post) [Difference] Pre-In Play (Post) [Difference]
Cutter 74.6 (77.8) [+3.2] 52.4 (48.1) [-4.3] 7.9 (5.2) [-2.7] 21.3 (23.7) [+2.4]
4-seam Fastball 70.3 (74.5) [+4.2] 50.1 (50.0) [-0.1] 6.5 (6.4) [-0.1] 22.7 (23.4) [+0.7]
2-seam Fastball (Sinker) 64.2 (64.4) [+0.2] 44.4 (40.7) [-3.7] 4.7 (5.9) [+1.2] 22.4 (18.5) [-3.9]
Curveball 67.8 (70.1) [+2.3] 49.6 (52.6) [+3.0] 22.3 (13.4) [-8.9] 14.3 (22.7) [+8.4]
Change-up 60.5 (57.4) [-3.1] 56.4 (55.6) [-0.8] 20.6 (16.7) [-3.9] 19.0 (14.8) [-4.2]
Total Differential +6.8 -5.9 -14.4 +3.4

Now that we have all this information, what does this mean for Roy Halladay? To be honest, it’s quite hard to say. Generally speaking, Halladay has thrown his pitches for strikes more consistently over his past five games; however, the opposition has been putting his balls into play more often, which makes sense since Bill already told us Roy has a .320 BABIP and 19% HR/FB ratio over this small sample size.

What could potentially be unsettling is Halladay’s Curveball.  Batters are swinging at his Curveball more often, but they are putting it in play significantly more than they are whiffing at it when compared to Halladay’s previous starts.  There are a multitude of possibilities as to why this is the case including bad luck, but we can’t discount the fact Halladay has been throwing his Curveball more often overall (and for strikes for that matter).  One guess could be that Halladay has been giving up more hits due to bad BABIP luck and is trying to pitch out of it by using his Curveball, but hitters just aren’t missing it either.  I’m not sure if it matters Halladay has dropped off using his 4-seam fastball as much from earlier in the year, but it is definitely an interesting point to note as well.

So what’s the bottom line here?  I think we can safely say Roy Halladay is fine despite this recent five game streak.  I do think, however, we should keep an eye out if this string of starts continues for much longer.  Hopefully, Wednesday was Halladay’s last bad-luck start and he continues his face breaking ways Tuesday against the Braves.

#RoyForCy