Roy Halladay and the ABC's of Pitching

Roy Halladay and the ABC's of Pitching
February 4, 2011, 9:50 am
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Much has been made of Roy Halladay's legendary workout regimen. After injuring his groin during the Phils Game 5 win over the Giants in the NLCS he took a couple of weeks off and then got right back to the business of preparing for the 2011 season. He shows up at the Carpenter Complex for pre-dawn workouts, he runs stadium steps, for all we know he probably jazzercises.

Yes, Harold Leroy Halladay is 6'6" and 230 lbs. There's no question his physical gifts are immense. But his physical prowess only tells part of the story. If fireballing right-handers of that size were guaranteed success based on their physical stature alone then all 6'7" and 230 lbs. of Jerry Spradlin would be in the Hall of Fame.

It's not size that distinguishes Doc from his peers. What separates Halladay from other pitchers is his ability to focus on each and every pitch separate and apart from both his last and next pitch. He takes the zen mantra of living in the moment to the extreme. To Doc it's all about the now.

How did he get like this?

Last year's Sports Illustrated cover story on Halladay provided a unique glimpse into what makes him tick. By this point you likely know that early into his big league career the Blue Jays sent him down to A ball to rediscover the stuff which made him the 17th overall pick of the 1995 amateur draft.

It was during this time that Brandy Halladay, Roy's wife, picked up a book for him which she hoped would help restore his sagging confidence. The book was called "The Mental ABC's of Pitching: A Handbook for Performance Enhancement." The book was written by Harvey Dorfman.

Who is Harvey Dorfman? How did he come to help transform a struggling pitcher demoted to A ball into the most dominating pitcher in baseball and a potential Hall of Famer? Why have you likely never heard much, if anything, about a man who has helped players like Greg Maddux and Alex Rodriguez?

Well, the answer to the last question is that you haven't heard much about Dorfman because that's the way he prefers it. Answering the first two questions is a bit more difficult.

Fortunately, writer Karl Taro Greenfeld was able to spend time with and interview Dorfman. Greenfeld's Men's Journal story tells how Dorfman found his way from high school teacher to trusted confidant of some of the greatest players in baseball history.

After reading the story it's hard not to draw parallels between Dofrman's work and the work of Bill James and other sabermetricians. Both initially worked on the fringes until the Oakland A's acknowledged the potential of their work. Early on both were dismissed by the baseball establishment.

However, their work produced results which were impossible to ignore. Eventually the rest of Major League Baseball determined there was value in their respective disciplines.

If you're the least bit interested in what helps to make Halladay such a succesful pitcher then I urge you to read Greenfeld's piece.

Photo Credit: Carr/AP

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