His last time out, when he earned that novelty-size champagne bottle with career win No. 200, Roy Halladay looked like he'd found a sustainable model for a 35-year-old with 33,000-plus pitches on his odometer that started to look like it.
This was also against the Marlins.
What gives? The numbers say Halladay’s cutter and two-seamer, and a mentality.
Doc deployed five different pitches in Game 3 last Saturday, worked an almost even split for each of them and enjoyed great results: eight innings, one run on five hits, 14 groundouts to 12 pop-ups. He only struck out two, but walked just one.
This, compared to 7 1/3 innings of 14.73 ERA ball vs. the Braves and Mets.
It's been a process for him.
He used his cutter (.583 opp BA in 2013) much less his second time out than he did his first, redistributing those to his 2-seamer. That mix didn’t work either, so he reallocated those same 10-15 pitches toward his changeup for Game 3.
Big results, but not without big change. Brooks Baseball Pitch F/X shows he’d thrown just one changeup two starts. He threw 14 (16.2%) in his third, and things seemed to be working for him.
The changeup is something new for Halladay. Last year, according to Fangraphs, only 43 of 2,388 total pitches were changes.
In 2012, Doc tinkered with arm slots, release points – whatever he could – to try to make his cutter work. He used it in 2012 (41.7%) more than every prior year but one. Clearly, that didn’t work.
He did start using his curveball more, but that was the extent of his off-speed stuff. Until now.
A huge part of this seems to be Halladay accepting his limits. It looks like he’s starting to get that he can’t overpower guys anymore. If he hadn’t, he would’ve tried to more against Miami, not less.
That’s why he threw so few cutters and 2-seamers (.429 opp BA in 2013).
Batters are hitting just .067 against his curveball, .167 against his changeup.
That can work. Or at least that’s the idea, for when he’s not facing near-minor leaguers, as he won’t tonight in Game 2 against the St. Louis Cardinals.
As is often the case around September, when a flood of minor leaguers make it tough to track and scout their games, it’s possible that this change may soon get snuffed out by opposing pitchers.
The Phillies hope not. With John Lannan on the shelf for 6-8 weeks (if not more), and some mix of minor leaguers likely to take over at No. 5, they need Halladay to go five-six innings reliably.
Matt Hammond is the Phillies Insider and Morning Update Anchor for 97.3 ESPN in New Jersey. Follow him on Twitter here.