A career day for Adeiny Hechavarria, until yesterday, did not require much. When Hechevarria stepped in to face Roy Halladay in the third inning yesterday, he had already tied a career high in RBI. He was just one short of tying his career high in total bases as well, all thanks to a bases-loaded three-run triple in the first.
For Roy Halladay, allowing three runs to the Marlins in the first inning was a disastrous enough result. Miami entered the game slugging .315, 51 points lower than the next-worst National League club. They entered the game scoring 2.71 runs per game, 0.74 runs lower than the next worst National League club. And Giancarlo Stanton is injured.
By the time Hechavarria stepped in the second time, another two runs had crossed the plate and the bases were loaded; there was already more than enough concern to go around. When Hechavarria deposited an 89 MPH Halladay cookie over the right field fence — an opposite field home run, no less — we were back to the question Halladay’s disturbingly poor spring training brought up just about a month ago: is he done?
We won’t find out for a while. Halladay revealed what everybody suspected: he has been pitching through a sore shoulder and will likely hit the disabled list shortly.
Is Roy Halladay finished?
It’s a distressing question to even consider. One of the defining characteristics of a Hall of Fame-level player — something I believe Roy Halladay to be even if he never pitches again — is a certain ubiquity. When it’s baseball season, you watch Roy Halladay. He has been an essential part of the league for over a decade now.
That’s what makes seeing the Halladay of the last two years so jarring. The name on the back says Halladay as it always did, but the ball doesn’t zip and dive like the one Roy Halladay throws. And even if it’s just for a couple hours every fifth day, it throws our whole perception of reality out of whack.
But it’s really starting to set in now. Halladay clearly wasn’t right for most of 2011; his control was sharp but not Halladay sharp; his pitches had movement but not Halladay-level movement, and all of a sudden he was beatable. Hitters finally managed to elevate against Halladay — 2012 was the first time his arsenal of heavy fastballs and diving curveballs didn’t draw a groundball rate of 50 percent or higher.
Look at the old scouting reports for Halladay, courtesy the tremendous Diamond Mines resource from the Hall of Fame. Multiple White Sox scouts noted the “bore and sink” on Halladay’s fastball at age 18. Another one described his “great tailing action down in zone.” These were the characteristics, along with his pinpoint control, that allowed him to rule the major leagues for a decade.
The bore and sink simply hasn’t been there since 2012 began. His ground ball rates have dropped five points from 2011, down in the mid-40s after sitting above 50 percent for his entire career. Hitters like Adeiny Hechevarria, who we never would have seen taking Halladay for opposite field bombs, are threats now. Seeing what happened on Sunday makes it awfully tough to believe the old Roy Halladay is coming back from the disabled list.
Maybe if Halladay can get back on the mound, there could be a little bit left in the tank. Halladay said his most recent soreness flared up in his April 30 start against Cleveland, another disastrous start with eight runs allowed in 3 2/3 innings. But in his three starts prior, Halladay had recorded three straight quality starts, with four runs allowed in 21 innings and a 16-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
He did what he was supposed to do against Miami and April 14th and then was sharp against a great lineup in St. Louis and an average one in Pittsburgh. We’ve seen players come back and contribute after harder falls. Halladay’s control has remained exemplary, and if he can regain even a fraction of the bite on his pitches, he can make it work.
But, as Adeiny Hechavarria made painfully clear Sunday afternoon, Roy Halladay is fallible now, as jarring as that realization may be, for the Phillies and for baseball fans at large.