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.

Nico Hischier recounts meteoric rise in draft stock as Flyers do their homework

Nico Hischier recounts meteoric rise in draft stock as Flyers do their homework

WINDSOR, Ontario -- Ever since the Flyers shot up the selection order at last month’s NHL draft lottery, prospect and Halifax Mooseheads center Nico Hischier has been familiarizing himself with the Flyers' organization.

The Flyers entered the lottery with just a 2.2 percent shot at the first overall pick after finishing the season with a 39-33-10 record but climbed 11 spots from the 13th selection to No. 2 in the draft, which takes place June 23-24 in Chicago.

“I know it’s a sports city — they have the NHL, NBA and all those sports,” Hischier said Saturday at the Memorial Cup. “It’s a really nice city and I know Mark Streit played there and Jakub Voracek played in Halifax as well.”

The Flyers' brass has wasted no time familiarizing themselves with the 18 year old, who spent this season playing with the Mooseheads in the QMJHL.

“We had already a little meeting together, but I think at combine we’ll see each other again,” said Hischier, who is ranked second amongst North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting. “It was just that they want to know me better as a person. They asked me some personal questions and that’s about it.”

A native of Naters, Switzerland, Hischier grew up playing soccer. He was also an avid skier and snowboarder before his older brother, Luca, turned him on to hockey.

“I used to ski a lot,” Hischier said. “First skiing, and then snowboarding, but my brother played hockey, he’s four years older than me, then I just wanted to play hockey as well.”

Last season, Hischier followed his brother to Bern, where he played 15 games in the Swiss pro league with several former NHLers while he was coached by current Senators bench boss Guy Boucher.

The six-foot, 174-pound center registered one assist in his brief stint with the club but gained valuable experience in the process.

“I think that helped me a lot because they’re all older guys and they gave me some good tips, too,” he said. “I really could learn from them and it’s great that I could play with them.

“I think I learned a lot (from Boucher). He brought Canadian hockey to Switzerland, I think. His practices were hard and I could really learn from him.”

Halifax used the sixth selection at last year’s CHL import draft to pick Hischier, and after a little convincing, the lanky forward made the decision to make the move to North America.

“I just came to Canada to try to become a better hockey player and I worked hard,” he said. “I had great teammates, and Halifax is a great organization.”

Adjusting to the smaller rinks in North America admittedly took time for Hischier, but he adapted well leading all CHL rookies in scoring with 38 goals and 48 assists in 57 games. On Saturday, he was named the CHL’s rookie of the year (see story).

“I think I improved my game in the corners,” Hischier said. “You have to dump more pucks over here on North American ice, and chase the puck more behind the net. At the end, I would say my play in the corners (improved the most).”

Growing up, Hischier watched former Red Wings star Pavel Datsyuk closely, trying to model his game after the Russian forward.

He spent time this season playing both the wing and center positions and isn’t afraid to go to the net hard despite his slender frame. His offensive talents coupled with his ability to play both ends of the ice is what caused his draft stock jump from 26th on ISS Hockey’s rankings in November to a top-three position in January.

Internationally, Hischier made a splash at this year’s Under-20 world junior tournament in Toronto and Montreal, scoring a team-leading four goals and seven points in five games.

The highlight came in the quarterfinals where Hischier nearly single-handedly upset the Americans, scoring two goals in a 3-2 loss.

The performance led to a glowing review from U.S. coach Bob Motzko.

“He was the best player we’ve seen in this tournament,” Motzko said following the game. “We tried all four lines against him and I thought he was playing every shift because every time he got out there, the ice was tilted. It was the first thing we said when we got into the locker room: ‘That’s the best player we’ve seen in the tournament.’”

After the Mooseheads' first-round playoff exit, Hischier once again donned his country’s colors, registering one assist in five games at the U-18 tournament.

However, he skipped out on an opportunity to represent Switzerland at the senior men’s tournament in favor of relaxation.

“It was really important (to recover),” he said. “I went a couple days away from Switzerland to the beach (in Italy) and just relaxed. It was really great. Had to refill my tank and it was just great.”

Hischier will get another opportunity to meet with the Flyers’ front office this week in Buffalo at the NHL’s scouting combine. It’s believed Hischier could make the jump to the NHL in the fall, but he knows he still has some work to do this summer to make his dream come true.

“Get some pounds on, I want to get stronger,” said Hischier. “I think that’s the most important thing and I work hard towards that.”

It looks like Fletcher Cox is back in Philly for Round 2 of Eagles OTAs

It looks like Fletcher Cox is back in Philly for Round 2 of Eagles OTAs

The optics weren't great last week when Fletcher Cox skipped Eagles' OTAs just a year after signing a $100 million contract. 

We'll all probably forget about it soon enough though. 

Cox on Sunday night posted a photo to Snapchat that indicated he was back in Philadelphia, presumably to join the team for voluntary OTAs, which pick back up on Tuesday morning. (Bleeding Green Nation noticed the photo first and alerted the world.) 

And here it is for your own visual proof: 

OK then. 

During last week, Cox's missing was a big story, partly because it didn't look great and partly because it's May and there's not a whole heckuva lot else going on. 

And partly because Doug Pederson didn't seem too thrilled his star defensive tackle wasn't there. After pointing out that OTAs are indeed voluntary, Pederson said this about Cox: "Fletcher is one of the leaders on the football team and guys like that, you do expect to be here, but I get the rules, we abide by the rules and he's one of the guys too, at the end of the day, I'm gonna hang my hat on and go to war with."

Cox's return to Philadelphia jives with what ESPN's Tim McManus reported last week, that Cox was with family and was expected to be back this week.

Ultimately, Cox's absence probably won't mean much at all. The three other players missing last week were Jason Peters, Donnie Jones and Marcus Smith. 

This round of OTAs goes from May 30-June 1. Then June 5-6, 8-9. The mandatory minicamp is from June 12-15. Then there's a long break until training camp.