Phillies ace Roy Halladay is a vital piece to Philadelphia's vaunted starting rotation. Not only that, but Halladay is showing in the early going of 2011 that he is also the most valuable player to this Phillies team, if not the most valuable in the entire National League.
In 2010, Halladay took the reigns as the de facto ace of the staff on the way to compiling 21 wins, as well as a perfect game and a postseason no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds. His impressive National League debut led him to his second career Cy Young award.
Thus far in 2011, Halladay is 6-3 with a 2.21 ERA, 80 strikeouts, and four complete games. Compared to 2010, the numbers are very similar except for allowing nine less hits, three less runs, and, most impressive of all, recording 21 more strikeouts in the same amount of innings (77IP) as a year ago. That is a jump of 6.5 K's per nine innings in 2010 to 8.8 K's per nine innings in 2011.
Halladay's dominance comes at a time when the Phillies offense is struggling to find an identity. Every fifth game, Halladay is expected to turn in a stellar performance each time he takes the mound. Each start, it is reasonable to expect 7, 8, and when he's on, 9 innings of baffled swings and weak outs, accompanied by 1-3 runs allowed in any given start.
With the offense struggling, Halladay's performance every fifth day is the most crucial to the team's success. Following a fifth starter of the likes of a Joe Blanton or Vance Worley, Halladay is the stopper. Much like four-fifths of the Phillies rotation, Halladay gives the team a chance to win every night. With an average of three runs being scored by the offense, Halladay accepts the challenge and bears down every time he takes the mound to limit the damage, while having little room for error.
Other position players across the league may mean more to their team, but a special exception must be made in this era of the pitcher. Halladay proves how much a great starting pitcher not only means to a team's pitching staff, but to the entire ball club.