Roy Halladay Tinkers In Attempt to Evolve, Stay Effective

Roy Halladay Tinkers In Attempt to Evolve, Stay Effective

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.

Topps cover man Claude Giroux answers U.S.-Canada questions

Topps cover man Claude Giroux answers U.S.-Canada questions

Claude Giroux spent Friday signing virtual autographs as the cover athlete for Topps NHL Skate 2017, a new onilne digital trading card game. Remember when trading cards came in a bubble gum pack? 

After the event, Giroux sat down with CSN's Michael Barkann on Philly Sports Talk for a game of “Who Does It Better: Canada or the United States?”

The game started off with a few easy softball questions, with Giroux picking the NFL over the Candian Football League. Then it got a little tougher, as Giroux chose Canadian hockey over U.S. hockey.

Despite talents like Drake and Shania Twain, Giroux went with the U.S. over Canada in music, and also chose American bacon over Canadian bacon.

Eventually, Barkann asked Giroux which beer he preffered.

“I don’t drink beer," Giroux responded.

Really? What Canadian doesn't like beer?

As he started to get up out of his seat after the interview, Giroux showed his true colors. “I love beer. I love beer,” he said.

Check out the video above to see the full game. 

Wayne Gretzky defends Connor McDavid's outburst over Brandon Manning

Wayne Gretzky defends Connor McDavid's outburst over Brandon Manning

PALM BEACH, Fla. — As the primary target of opponents over his Hall of Fame career, Wayne Gretzky can certainly empathize with the frustration of Oilers star Connor McDavid.

McDavid and Flyers defenseman Brandon Manning jostled all evening long in a 6-5 Edmonton loss. McDavid denounced the tactics of his opponent after the game, claiming Manning intentionally injured him last season; McDavid missed 37 games with a broken collarbone.

"I guess we can put the whole 'if he did it' thing to rest because what he said out there kind of confirmed that," said McDavid, who taunted Manning after scoring the second goal in the Oilers' loss.

"I think anybody who knows me or who has played with or against me along the road here, knows that I am not that kind of player," Manning said, according to a statement released by the Flyers. "I am not out there intentionally trying to hurt people. I'm a guy who plays the game hard and I take pride in that."

Gretzky didn't mind seeing that fire in McDavid, saying competitiveness is part of what makes the great ones great. And he said the targeting comes with the territory of being a superstar. It was something he and Mario Lemieux dealt with, too.

"And Connor, he's going to get tested every night, but this is not new for him," Gretzky said Friday at the NHL board of governors meetings. "He's been tested since he was a kid and then playing junior hockey and now in the NHL and he's always responded and done his part."