In 2010, Roy "Doc" Halladay joined a new team, switched leagues in the process and pitched better than ever.
In Doc's case, that's saying something. He was coming off eight consecutive stellar seasons as the Toronto Blue Jays ace (which included six All-Star appearances, a Cy Young and four other top-five finishes), and although he pitched in relative obscurity, many already considered him to be the best pitcher in the game.
Those who did not know the Phillies' new ace of aces all that well before 2010 were astonished by his combination of work ethic, nasty stuff and humility.
No matter how you choose to view Halladay’s inaugural season in the season circuit, you come away quite impressed.
Traditional Stats: 21-10, 2.44 ERA with 219 strikeouts against only 30 walks in a league-leading 250.2 innings pitched. He also led the majors with nine complete games.
Halladay posted a 2-1 record with a 2.45 ERA in his first ever postseason.
Inside Numbers: A WAR (Wins Above Replacement) of 6.98 and career-best full-season marks for WHIP (1.041 walks and hits per nine innings) and ERA-plus (165: the higher the better—100 is average).
Geeky stats aside (and there are tons more that show Doc to be at or near the head of his class), we haven’t even mentioned his special accolades.
He capped it all off by capturing the NL Cy Young. In a season that featured very strong performances by the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright and the Rockies’ Ubaldo Jimenez, Halladay won the award unanimously.
To a team player like Roy Halladay, the opportunity to pitch for a championship contender made 2010 his most memorable campaign.
Indeed, after receiving his Cy Young last November, the modest right-hander was quoted by several news sources as saying: "It's by far the most fun I've ever had playing this game. It was just tremendous from Day 1 to the end."
The beauty of Halladay’s demeanor is that for all he has attained personally in a career that will one day earn him a plaque in Cooperstown, he is motivated by team accomplishments. Setting the stage for new teammates Roy Oswalt and Cliff Lee, Halladay wanted to pitch in Philadelphia—for a team and a city that he could help bring a championship.
Last year, for all of his heroics, the team fell six victories short. This year—injuries to Chase Utley and Brad Lidge notwithstanding—the sky is the limit, and expectations are extremely high.
To which this columnist poses the following question: What can Phillies fans and baseball pundits expect to see out of Halladay this season?
After all, with only 31 wins this year (and if a relative journeyman like Denny McLain could do it...) Doc will earn his 200th regular season victory.
OK, it’s fairly safe to say that no pitcher will win 30 games again, and earning 20 is no mean feat. But what’s a reasonable number?
On the one hand, Halladay, who will turn 34 in May, is certainly pitching like he is in his prime. He is also coming off a combined 272-plus innings of work last year. Can he manage a similar workload in back-to-back years?
Halladay has pitched at least 220 innings in seven of his last nine seasons, including the last five.
There are two ways to look at this.
Pessimistically: It’s bound to catch up with him.
Optimistically: He’s used to the heavy workload and thrives on it—and can one question his preparation and work habits?
(Did I mention that in the history of Major League Baseball, no pitcher born in Colorado and past the age of 30 has ever pitched more than 250 innings in consecutive years? You can look it up. I didn’t, but you can.)
My own middle ground is to hope that Halladay finishes the regular season with somewhere around 230 innings and a full tank for the expected postseason run. Doc has been so consistent the last several years that it is reasonable to expect an ERA at or under 2.75 and about 19 wins (he will be at the mercy of an offense that may not produce as much this year).
Then, as everyone knows, it’s all about the playoffs.
Toward that end, the man widely regarded as the best pitcher on Planet Earth took the ball yesterday in a matchup against AL Cy Young contender Jon Lester and the powerful Boston Red Sox.
Halladay (now 3-0) out-dueled his Red Sox counterpart, scattering five hits and yielding only one run in 7.2 innings of quality work. Ryan Madson got the last four outs to earn the save.
Alas, it was only March 21, but it was an encouraging sign.
If the same box score unfolds seven months from now, it will be huge.
When it comes to Roy Halladay, is anyone betting against it?
For more information on Matt Goldberg’s new books, other writings and public appearances, please e-mail: email@example.com or contact him via his Bleacher Report home page.