Halladay lived in the middle of the plate in Cleveland

Halladay lived in the middle of the plate in Cleveland

May 1, 2013, 10:45 am
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Carlos Santana's HR vs. Halladay

Santana HR

Mark Reynolds' HR vs. Halladay

Reynolds' HR vs. Halladay

Lonnie Chisenhall's HR vs. Halladay

Chisenhall's HR

Halladay's poor location in Cleveland

Halladay misses

Halladay's command vs. Pirates

Halladay's command vs. Pirates

Graphs courtesy of Brooks Baseball

Roy Halladay’s velocity wasn’t a problem in Cleveland. Roy Halladay’s command was a problem in Cleveland.

Halladay allowed three two-run homers, two of which came on cutters, and all three of which came on pitches directly down the middle of the plate.

The first bomb was a 78 mph curveball that Carlos Santana barely kept fair. It was Pitch 4 in the plot to the right, provided by Brooks Baseball. (To view these images in full, right-click and view image on PCs, or control-click on a Mac.)

If you can imagine a bat being swung against that pitch, the location lines up directly with the sweet spot. You didn’t even need to see the game to guess the result.

The second homer came on a 91 mph cutter that couldn’t have been in a better hitter’s zone for Mark Reynolds.

The third was another cutter, this time at 88 mph, to Lonnie Chisenhall. Again, right down the middle and just slightly low enough to enable a perfect home run swing.

It is very strange watching Halladay these days. Over the last calendar year he has the highest ERA of any National League starting pitcher, at 5.59. He’s allowed one fewer home run than Cole Hamels ... in 75 fewer innings.

The long ball has been a major problem -- 17.8 percent of Halladay's flyballs over the last calendar year have left the yard. That leads the NL and is more than double his rate during his first two years with the Phillies.

In six starts this season, Halladay has failed to go more than four innings three times. He did that just three times in his 90 starts as a Phillie entering 2013.

The most troubling part of what we’ve seen from Doc so far is the volatility. He didn’t go from a 2.40 ERA pitcher to a 4.50 ERA pitcher. He went from a 2.40 ERA pitcher to one that can one-hit a team on a Monday and give up 1,200 feet of home runs on a Saturday.

It wasn’t Halladay’s pitch selection that did him in against Cleveland. Yes, he threw more cutters with Carlos Ruiz behind the plate, but that was more so a result of his inability to throw his sinker or changeup for strikes. The curveball has been his best pitch in 2013, but no pitcher throws curve after curve after curve. Doc mixed in more cutters out of necessity.

No, again, the problem was command. Look at how many pitches Halladay left in the middle of the plate on Tuesday night in Cleveland. A quick count gives you 20 center-cut misses.

Compare that to his one-hit outing last week against the Pirates, and you see no pitches directly in the middle, and even the ones that were low-middle were slightly more inside or outside.

Halladay is no longer the kind of pitcher who can miss spots and get away with it. He absolutely needs pinpoint command. Missing by a fraction of an inch can make all the difference between pitching a one-hitter and losing a game in the first inning.

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