Doc is off to an 0-2 start, but his record doesn't remotely tell the story. Doc's astronomical 14.73 ERA doesn't tell the tale, either. It's possible for even the best pitchers to have a two-start stretch where all hell breaks loose and things go calamitously wrong. That doesn't seem to be the case here.
Halladay looks like someone erased the mere shadow of his former self and left the bones of a long since passed major-league pitcher. I would say his confidence is shot, but he seems to continue to pitch as if he's the Doc of old. There is an honest-to-God look of bewilderment upon his face when his deliveries don't travel their appropriately desired path with the appropriately desired movement.
Remember that heat-soaked day in Chicago that Halladay had to be removed because he looked as if a medic was needed more than a cut fastball? That's sort of how he looks after every pitch right now. It's as if he's throwing pitches and consequently questioning his body about what it just did.
I spoke with University of Scranton coach Randy Shemanski after Doc's last outing, and he took a spin that would intimate that Halladay's stuff simply could be fleeting. "I think there comes a time in every pitcher's career when he has to face the reality that his stuff isn't good enough anymore and adjustments are needed," he said.
Shemanski went on to speak about what a pitcher's options might be, saying, "(He) might need a new pitch or a new arm angle that allows him to remain competitive when his velocity and quality of stuff starts to diminish."
So what can Halladay do to right the ship? What can Halladay do to regain at least that erased shadow? What can Halladay do to put together a major-league caliber season? Forget Cy Youngs. Forget being labeled an ace. We'd settle for the seven of hearts at this point. Right now, Halladay is the joker.
The first step is acceptance. Halladay needs to accept that he is never again going to be the Doc of old. The second step is finding an arm slot that is going to allow Halladay to locate his pitches effectively. The third step is finding which pitches are actually working for him.
Others have done it. Below we'll look at five pitchers who reinvented themselves to extend their major-league careers with a modicum of success. We'll look at how simple changes in pitching philosophy can make a struggling pitcher effective again. We'll look at how pitch selections change prolong pitching success.
Reinventing yourself as a pitcher is not a novel innovation. It's been done for years. Doc needs to jump on board.
Livan Hernandez (RHP 1996-2012) - Talk about a pitcher who simply wouldn't go away. Hernandez was never overpowering with anything he threw. He averaged around 85-86 mph with his fastball throughout his career and managed to win 178 games. He constantly attempted to tweak his approach to hitters. He never threw an overly high collection of strikes but somehow walked hitters at a below-average rate.
Perhaps Livan's pedestrian velocities incited hitters to get hacking, licking their chops while Hernandez snickered. As the end of his career neared, Hernandez went away from the fastball, throwing just 48 percent fastballs in 2011 (including cutters and sinkers) compared to 61 percent in 2010. Hernandez relied more on his slider, throwing 26 percent sliders compared to 20 percent the season previous.
Curt Schilling (RHP 1988-2007) - In the early part of the 2000s, Schilling was arguably the most dominant pitcher in baseball. His strikeout rates, K/BB percentages, win totals, clutch performances and world championships attest to that.
After the bloody-sock incident in 2004, the injury bug began to catch Schilling, and the writing began to show on the wall. After starting just 11 games in 2005, Schilling bounced back in 2006, only to be struck by the injury bug again in '07. Schilling's fastball velocity averaged below 90 for the first time in his career in 2007, which because of injuries would be his last season. Schilling moved away from his fastball and patented split finger, throwing 8 percent less. He threw 5 percent more changeups and 5 percent more curve balls. He went 9-8 with a respectable 3.87 ERA in his last season.
At this point, the Phillies would take that from Halladay.
Greg Maddux (RHP 1986-2008) - How could a surgeon reinvent himself, you might ask? In baseball, it's all about keeping hitters off-balanced. After Tony Gwynn made watching film a religion, and with the advent of hot zones and statistics that make preparation as relevant as ever, you have to be able to flip the switch and do it with precision.
Maddux's streak of 17 incredible years straight of 15 or more wins came to an end in 2005, but he still collected 42 wins from age 39-41. Maddux started throwing his cut fastball with more frequency, moving away from his devastating changeup as the velocity on his fastball started dropping.
Jamie Moyer (LHP 1986-2012) - If it's possible, the ageless Jamie Moyer may have survived in the majors to the age of 49, because he had no problem throwing with less and less velocity by the season. By the time Moyer pitched his last full season with the Phillies in 2010, his average fastball velocity was 80.
For Moyer, his reinvention was in embracing his lack of physical abilities and using the over-anxiousness of major-league hitters to his advantage. The more he slowed the ball down, the more hitters got out in front and rolled ground balls over to third base. His ground-ball percentage with the Phillies, in his 40s, was 3-4 percent higher on average than in his last four seasons with the Seattle Mariners. Get them out in front and roll them over. Simple enough to get you pitching into your late-40s.
Adam Wainwright (RHP 2005-2013) - Wainwright may be a bit young to have to reinvent his game, but I'm using him as an example of someone who overcame injury to return to success. Wainwright missed 2011 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He returned last season to average success, but posted a 3.28 ERA in the second half.
Wainwright had scrapped a four-seam fastball in Double-A ball, but he picked it back up when he found that he couldn't locate his cut fastball after the surgery. The move paid off, and now Wainwright has yet another weapon in his repertoire while he continues to work on the control of a pitch that had previously been successful for him. As he gets older, he'll have two weapons to choose from.
I use the injury example because none of us really know how Halladay's strained lat last season has played a role in the evolution of his game plan, strength and delivery. Only Doc knows. And he needs to accept any bad news his body is giving him.
For a pitcher of Roy Halladay's caliber, it's got to be difficult to admit that there are dents in the armor, especially after all the work he puts in off the field. But when you look at your stat lines and read that your WHIP is 2.46, something has to give. Change can be a good thing. For someone as stubborn and willful as Roy Halladay, it may be the only thing that saves him.
Pete Lieber is a freelance writer who has covered the Phillies for more than three years and followed the club since long before Steve Carlton needed to re-invent himself and never got the memo. Follow him on Twitter at @Lieber14.
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