Colder weather and a lack of feel against top-tier starters pitching in competitive games often tips the scales in a pitchers favor in April. And its not as if the Pirates Opening Day lineup was a reincarnation of the 2004 Red Sox.
But Roy Halladay was almost impossibly efficient Thursday at PNC Park (see game recap).
Halladay threw just 92 pitches over eight shutout innings, an average of 11.5 per inning. Last season Halladay averaged 14.8 pitches per inning, a stellar mark in and of itself. As a frame of reference, AL MVP Justin Verlander averaged 15.7 pitches per inning. Halladay pitched the seventh most innings in baseball in 2011 but was just 14th in total pitches.
The importance of a pitchers total pitch count is often overrated. Any pitching coach will tell you that he worries more about high-stress pitches pitches under pressure, pitches with runners in scoring position, single innings of more than 22-25 pitches.
Halladay on Thursday threw no more than 15 pitches in any inning. By inning, his pitch totals were: 10, 14, 12, 15, 11, 6, 11 and 13.
Of Halladays 92 pitches, 54 were cutters. Surprisingly, 22 were curveballs, which is a seven percent higher rate than Halladay threw his curve the last two seasons. Of the remaining 16 pitches, 11 were splitters or changeups and five were two-seam fastballs.
Halladay induced 12 swinging strikes, or one on every 7.7 pitches. That swinging strike rate is identical to what it was in 2011.
Halladays velocity was slightly down. His cutter averaged 89 miles per hour and his two-seamer was 90. Last season, his cutter was 91 and his two-seam fastball was 92. In 2010, Halladays first year with the Phillies, his cutter was 91.4 and his two-seamer was 92.6.
So while through the spring and one start into the regular season Halladays velocity may be down a tick, that hasnt yet made him less efficient.
E-mail Corey Seidman at firstname.lastname@example.org.