Halladay and Chooch, Together Again: Will It Help Roy's Command?

Halladay and Chooch, Together Again: Will It Help Roy's Command?

If there's a better bromance in Philadelphia than Carlos Ruiz and Roy Halladay, I'd like to hear who it involves.

The battery mates will be reunited this evening in Cleveland when Roy Halladay (2-2, 5.08) and the Phillies take on right-hander Zach McAllister (1-3, 3.50) and the Indians (more on McAllister and the Phils futility against pitchers they haven't seen here).

The big news of the day is Delmon Young flying to Cleveland and Charlie Manuel wasting no time getting him in the lineup. Young will DH tonight and bat fifth, but Charlie told reporters this afternoon he'd like to see him in right field before the team heads home to face the Marlins on Thursday. That could be disastrous/hilarious.

7:05 start from the Forest City. For more on Halladay, check out the guest spot from Matt Hammond below.

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Next Step in Halladay's Progression: Command by Matt Hammond

Between 2010 and 2011, only one starter in baseball had a better strikeout-to-walk ratio, the consummate control metric, than Roy Halladay. (That guy, of course, was Cliff Lee.)

No matter how you slice it, be it BB% (3.4) or BB/9 (1.21), Halladay walked the fewest batters in baseball (again, with Lee) and did it with a handle matched by, well, maybe only Lee. But still.

Even amid Halladay’s remarkable turnaround – he’s gone 2-0 with a 1.71 ERA in his last three – that control has yet to catch up. With his Phillies in Cleveland tonight for the first of a two-game set to wrap the road trip, rediscovering his command is the next logical step for him.

Save for the home runs and near driver’s license-eligible ERA, what was scariest about Halladay’s first two starts was his 14.6% walk rate. Still, even in his last three, he gave freebies to 8.6%. Never in his career since 2004 had he walked more than 5.6% -- and even that was from last year.

One of his biggest issues so far has been falling behind. Halladay’s thrown first-pitch strikes on only 50.4% of at-bats, for the fifth-worst rate in baseball. And it’s actually gotten progressively worse as the rest of his game has so much improved: 55.2, 44.0, 40.9 in his last three. Granted, he’s done a good job of recovering or forcing bad balls in play (we’ll get there), and if this persists, that ability will be one of his biggest allies. Still, it’s just not a Halladay we’ve ever seen – even last year.

Part of the problem is there’s actually too much life in his cutter. Where it had just -0.1 of horizontal movement in 2010-11, it’s now got -3.9 – good (bad?) for the most in all of baseball. Clearly not helping keep runners off base, especially since they’re hitting .389 against the pitch this year.

If he can get a hold of that, watch out.

The hope tonight is that Cleveland doesn’t get a hold of Halladay. His HR/FB rate (20.8%) ranks fourth in baseball and is twice his career average. And it’s not just from his first two starts. Despite ranking 24th in home runs, the Cardinals took Halladay deep twice two weeks back. The Indians have the seventh most homers in baseball so far, and sixth best HR/FB (13.2%).

Also of concern: Halladay’s BABIP his last three starts is .194, from 54 balls put in play.

But hits and home runs will happen, even to Halladay.

Of chief concern now is whether the guys running/trotting the base paths walked to get there.

Temple cracks Top 25 in final CFP rankings, will play in Military Bowl

ap-temple.jpg
The Associated Press

Temple cracks Top 25 in final CFP rankings, will play in Military Bowl

After winning its first American Athletic Conference championship Saturday, Temple learned its postseason fate Sunday and it does not involve a New Year's Six bowl game.

The Owls will play Wake Forest in the Military Bowl on Dec. 27 in Annapolis, Maryland. Temple also finished No. 24 in the final College Football Playoff rankings and No. 23 in the AP poll.

At 10-3, Temple has its first back-to-back 10-win season in program history. It's also the first time the Owls have been ranked in consecutive seasons. Head coach Matt Rhule now has 28 wins as Temple's head coach, tying him with Bruce Arians' for the sixth-most in school history.

Wake Forest finished the season 6-6 and on a three-game losing streak, but two of those three loses came to No. 2 Clemson and No. 13 Louisville. The Deamon Deacons have lost five of their last six games.

Flyers-Predators 5 things: Going for longest win streak since 2014

Flyers-Predators 5 things: Going for longest win streak since 2014

Flyers (13-10-3) at Predators (11-8-4)
6 p.m. on CSN and CSNPhilly.com

The Flyers have won a season-high four games in a row. They'll try to make it five Sunday night when they visit the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena for the second game of a back-to-back set.

Let's take a look at five things you need to know.

1. Streaking like 2014?
Not only do the Flyers have a chance to extend their season-best winning streak, but they're also looking to win their most consecutive games since March 15-22, 2014, when they also won five straight.

The Flyers have put up strong showings in the back ends of back-to-backs, going 4-1-1 thus far.

“You just have to have the work ethic night in and night out," Steve Mason said Saturday after the Flyers' 3-1 win over the Blackhawks. "And, I think we were struggling to find that. There are games when we were swarming and giving teams no other option, and other nights we were chasing the puck.

"We have another tough test going to Nashville to play. So, we’re going to have to follow up with another great effort.” 

2. A Provorov encore?
Ivan Provorov's confidence has to be at his highest of the season.

In Saturday's win, the 19-year-old blueliner scored two goals in a 31-second span to double his goal total through the first 25 games.

Provorov said he thinks defense first, but the offensive production is a good sign.

“Score one goal in a game, it’s a good feeling. Score two in one shift, it’s unbelievable,” Provorov said.

“Every time you score, it’s like a confidence booster."

3. Predators finding stride
After losing eight of their first 11 games, Peter Laviolette's Predators have gotten on track, going 8-3-1 since.

Nashville ranks in the top half of the league in goals per game (3.00 — tied for fifth), goals against per game (2.61 — 15th), power-play percentage (22.6 — sixth) and penalty-kill percentage (84.5 — 10th).

Last time out, the Predators blew a 4-1 lead in the third period for a 5-4 overtime loss to the Devils on Saturday, so they should be extra focused.

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: On Saturday, Brayden Schenn scored just his second goal in his past 18 games. Schenn can be streaky so maybe he feeds off that goal. He's also a career plus-4 against the Predators, with two goals and three assists in eight games.

Predators: Let's go P.K. Subban, who isn't exactly a favorite among Flyers fans. He's off to a nice start in his first season in Nashville with six goals and 10 assists, and eight points (three goals, five assists) in his last eight games.

5. This and that
• Flyers goalie Steve Mason is 7-7-5 with a 2.42 goals-against average and .916 save percentage in 20 career games against the Predators.

• Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne is 3-2-2 with a 2.91 goals-against average and .906 save percentage in seven career games against the Flyers.

• Claude Giroux is four assists away from passing Rick MacLeish (369) and Eric Lindros (369) for fifth on the Flyers’ all-time list.