With a fastball whose average velocity prior to this season was around 92 mph, Roy Halladay may not have been considered a pitcher who got by using only his power until this point in his career.
However, the recently turned 35-year-old’s pitching style may resemble more of a finesse manner more so than ever during his 14th season in the major leagues.
After logging over 2,500 innings in his career, Halladay’s cutter has averaged 89 mph through eight starts this season, its lowest velocity since the pitcher joined the Phillies prior to the 2010 season.
But, rather than his age or health being reasons for the decrease in velocity, might Halladay simply be transitioning into a pitcher who focuses more heavily on command and pitch movement?
Here are four ways in which Halladay has been pitching more than ever like a finesse pitcher this season.
(Note: All statistics and information relating to pitches were obtained from fangraphs.com)
A pitcher can be considered a finesse pitcher if the total of their walk and strikeout percentages is less than 24 percent.
Prior to his most recent start against the San Diego Padres, the sum of Halladay’s walk and strikeout percentages was hovering near the 24 percent mark, at 23.5 percent.
After facing a total of 228 batters so far this season, Halladay has a strikeout rate of approximately 20.2 percent and a walk rate of approximately 5.3 percent. Although this puts his current total percentage at 25.5 percent, the mark is still lower than the 27.4 percent he posted last season.
Prior to his most recent 10 strikeout performance, Halladay’s combined strikeout rate and walk rate of 23.5 percent was his lowest since the 2007 season, when he finished with a 15.0 strikeout rate and 5.2 walk rate for a combined 20.2 percent. Halladay’s current 7.35 K/9 and 1.92 BB/9 averages are his lowest and highest averages, respectively, since the 2007 season, as well.
Although Halladay’s combined strikeout and walk rate have always been around the 24 percent mark, it has taken a 10 strikeout performance to exceed the threshold this season.
Halladay has thrown his cutter more this season than he has since he began making 30 starts and pitching 200 innings on a consistent basis beginning in 2002.
However, he has also thrown his curveball more this season than he has in recent seasons. While Halladay has thrown his cutter approximately 46 percent of the time, he has also thrown his curveball approximately 22.6 percent of the time. 2008 was the last season in which Halladay threw his curveball approximately 23 percent of the time.
During both the 2010 and 2011 seasons, Halladay threw his curveball less than 20 percent of the time. 2006 saw Halladay throw the pitch approximately 24 percent of the time. That same season also saw him throw his fastball over 50 percent of the time.
Although the velocities of a majority of his pitches have gone down this season, the frequency with which he has thrown his off-speed pitches has continued to increase.
As Halladay continues to increase his pitch variety, his pitching style resembles that of a finesse pitcher more than ever.
Halladay’s velocity on a number of pitches has decreased so far this season, although the small sample size includes multiple starts in cold weather.
This season, Halladay has averaged approximately 89 mph with his cutter, 76.6 mph with his curveball, and 90.8 mph with his two-seam fastball. Although these velocities are only through eight starts, and early season starts at that, they still are continuing with decreases that began following the 2010 season.
However, despite the decrease in velocity, Halladay is still sporting a 3.20 ERA while ranking fifth in the National League in strikeouts, with 46.
After starting the season 3-0 through three starts while giving up a combined three earned runs, the Phils have gone on to lose his last five starts.
In all but one of his previous five starts, however, Halladay has given up three earned runs or less. He has also thrown over 100 pitches in six of his eight starts. Halladay has also held opponents to a .146 batting average when he his ahead in the count.
Halladay’s average velocities have decreased this season but his performances have hardly suffered in the process, showing that more of a finesse pitching style in replace of high velocity can still lead to strong outings.
Through eight starts this season, Halladay has a 3.83 K/BB. This mark not only continues with a decrease that began following the 2010 season, but is also his lowest since 2007.
Although he has never had a K/BB under 6.29 in a full season with the Phillies, Halladay only had two seasons while with the Toronto Blue Jays in which he finished with a K/BB over 6.29.
Halladay’s K/BB ratio in 2010 was 7.30, while 2011 saw a 6.29 mark.
But Halladay’s 3.83 K/BB may not be a sign that he’s having a down year, as his ERA is below his career average and he is still in the top 10 in the National League in strikeouts. Instead, his 3.83 mark is similar to the career K/BB of certain other pitchers.
Halladay’s current career K/BB is 3.72.
Although his K/BB is not as low as other pitchers who, at least for some portions of their careers, pitched in more of a finesse style, Halladay’s strikeout-to-walk ratio so far this season resembles that of a finesse pitcher more so than it has in recent seasons.