Shoulder Surgery Could Be Just What the Doctor Ordered for Roy Halladay

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Shoulder Surgery Could Be Just What the Doctor Ordered for Roy Halladay

Baseball has finally done it. It's finally broken Roy Halladay.

And that may not be such a bad thing, for now he can be put back together again rather than merely patched up.

If you haven't heard the latest news, yes, Doc Halladay is indeed broken. According to the team's official site, the Philadelphia Phillies right-hander will be going in for surgery on his right shoulder.

The bad news? Halladay, who has an 8.65 ERA in seven starts this season, is going to be out a while.

The not-so-bad news? The surgery may not be major, and the man himself thinks he has a shot to pitch again this season.

Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News was on the scene to collect some quotes from Halladay, who says the surgery is going to "clean up" his labrum and rotator cuff. The bigger issue is a bone spur in his shoulder that's been causing trouble.

"They said the bone spur, the rotator cuff kept rubbing over it," said Halladay. "And over time it gradually created more and more of a tear. They want to get that cleaned up and get that out of there."

And now for the ideal scenario: 

And from what I understand, if they go in and see during surgery what they saw on the exams I have a chance to come back and pitch this year. I have a good chance to come back and pitch this year and hopefully be a lot more effective. They said that my range of motion will be better, my location will be better and hopefully the velocity will be better.

So it's not a given that his shoulder surgery will be a mere clean-up. But if it is, Halladay could find himself feeling healthy again for the first time in a long time.

In essence: "[The doctor] said he thought they could turn back the clock two or three years for me."

When Halladay hit bottom. Video courtesy of MLB Advanced Media via MLB's official YouTube account.

All bets are off as to exactly how Halladay is going to actually recover from this, mind you. But while I'm not a doctor or Will Carroll, B/R's resident injury guru, I'm willing to believe that this surgery could indeed result in a reborn Halladay.

For one, it feels long overdue. Per FanGraphs, nobody compiled more innings than Halladay between 2006 and 2011, and he also pitched almost 20 more complete games than the next guy on the list (CC Sabathia). That's a lot of work for a guy who went from age 29 in 2006 to age 34 in 2011.

Halladay also indicated that the docs are going in to fix some issues that have been there for a while now. He said his labrum and rotator cuff were damaged last season, in which he was on the disabled list for six weeks with shoulder issues. The only thing that might be new is the bone spur, though Halladay wasn't certain whether or not it was also there last year.

If it was, then Halladay has basically been pitching all this time with a ticking time bomb of a shoulder. It's certainly been volatile in the meantime, and it finally went off this month.

As Halladay noted, surgery could conceivably result in some added velocity. He could definitely use some, as I'm sure you've heard that his average fastball velocity is on the decline.

Here are the numbers from Baseball Info Solutions (via FanGraphs):

  • 2011: 92.0 MPH
  • 2012: 90.6 MPH
  • 2013: 89.6 MPH

Pretty alarming stuff for a guy who threw in the 92-93 range like clockwork between 2008 and 2011.

Brian Garfinkel/Getty Images
Missing: Roy Halladay's heat.

Just as important, if not more important, is the range of motion that could be gained from surgery. That's something that could help rescue Halladay's arm slot, which is very much in need of rescuing. It's quite literally going down.

The best place to get a glimpse at how much Halladay's arm slot has dropped is over at BrooksBaseball.net. I'm not supposed to post any of their graphs here, but do yourself a favor and check out the release point plots from three separate starts.

The first: Halladay's outing against the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2011 NLDS.

The second: Halladay's outing against the Atlanta Braves last Sept. 22.

The third: Halladay's most recent outing against the Miami Marlins on May 5.

It's important to note that all three of these starts were at Citizens Bank Park, meaning we're talking about the same mound being in play. 

Now, line up the release point plots for those outings up in three separate tabs and scroll through them real quick. What you'll see is a noticeable drop. Halladay has drifted from an over-the-top release to more of a three-quarter release.

Want actual visuals? Very well.

Here's a screenshot from Halladay's start against the Cardinals in 2011:

Image courtesy of MLB Advanced Media via MLB.com.

And here's one from his start against the Marlins a couple days ago:

Image courtesy of MLB Advanced Media via MLB.com.

See the difference?

No? Alright then, here's a look at these two images crudely mashed together:

Images courtesy of MLB Advanced Media via MLB.com.

I lined these up as best I could. It's obviously not a 100 percent accurate overlay, but you can see that the pitching rubber and Halladay's legs are about in the same spot while his arm is way off. That gives you an idea of how much his release point has dropped in a period of less than two years.

What sort of effect has Halladay's lowered arm slot had on his pitching?

The biggest would probably be on his control. Halladay's Zone%—the percentage of pitches he's thrown inside the strike zone as calculated by Baseball Info Solutions—has gone like so since 2011:

  • 2011: 46.7
  • 2012: 42.3
  • 2013: 43.5

Better this year, but still pretty far off from where Halladay was in 2011, a year in which he had a 2.35 ERA over 233.2 innings.

Not surprisingly, Halladay's overall strike percentage has gone down as well. Courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com:

  • 2011: 69
  • 2012: 67
  • 2013: 59

Halladay has gone from being one of the best strike-throwers in the business to being, well, not one of the best strike-throwers in the business. It's fair to blame his declining arm slot for that.

Again, it must be understood that Halladay's shoulder surgery may not be so minor. That depends on what the docs see when they actually go in with their tools and whatnot. And even if the surgery is minor, it shouldn't be taken for granted that Halladay is going to enjoy the benefits he's been told he could enjoy.

But if things go according to plan, then Halladay will be a good pitcher again. He won't automatically return to being one of the game's elite hurlers, but there's not a pitcher in baseball who can't at least be effective with good velocity and good location.

Here's hoping. I know he's not going to be able to pitch forever, but I don't believe I've had my fill of good Halladay pitching just yet.

 

If you want to talk baseball, hit me up on Twitter. 

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