Sometimes it's useful to sleep on an event before you really try to figure it out. So, after witnessing Roy Halladay's opening start of the 2013 season, then getting a chance to watch a video replay of it while downing a few pints of Sam Adams' spring seasonal draft (very tasty) and playing Japandroids on a jukebox in the Black Horse (which has an great sound system, BTW), here are the things that come to mind:
1) Chase Utley was right. In Halladay's first interview in Clearwater, he mentioned that Utley had told him it might do him good "to hit a few guys." It was meant as a joke ... sort of. The truth is, I didn't see one Atlanta hitter have to spin out of the box, flinch, or even tilt backward Wednesday night. Not one.
I don't care how hard you throw or how good your stuff is, unless you are a knuckleballer, you HAVE to back hitters off. Halladay did throw inside, but he was throwing to the inside corner. He needs to, on occasion, throw to the inside of a hitter's rectum -- especially with this Braves' lineup, which is unashamedly aggressive and has the muscle to be that way.
2) The guy really has been unlucky. Look, I'm not going to get too technical here, because I'm trying to write for everyone. However, there is a SABR stat called BABIP that figures out the ratio of balls put in play that go for hits. For his career, Halladay's has been .295, and that's pretty standard. About 30 percent of balls in the field of play go for hits.
Against the Braves, Halladay endured an .800 BABIP -- four of the five balls in play went for hits. It's a crazy-small sampling because HE STRUCK OUT NINE GUYS, but it is worth mentioning that in his last two spring starts, Halladay had a similarly insane amount of balls in play that fell for hits. (Like I said, I'm writing a blog, not a textbook. But if my memory serves me right the opposing BABIP in those two starts was around .700.)
Here's the point: Halladay might not be the same, but he is not THIS bad. If you overhand tossed balls to big-league hitters they wouldn't hit more than .500 on balls in play. And his strikeouts do show that he has pitches that guys can swing through. But what he needs them to do is start hitting them weakly into play. He broke Freddie Freeman's bat on his single in the first inning, so again ... kind of unlucky.
3) He has to control his frustration better. After the game, Roy kind of threw Erik Kratz under the bus when discussing a pitch he wanted to throw to Justin Upton. He said he wanted to go up with it, while Kratz gave him a low target. Upton went down and crushed it in what really was an impressive display of power and plate coverage.
Meanwhile, in the same postgame interview Halladay spoke of the need to get the ball down and get groundballs. In fact, he said that after I asked him about the bad luck dealio in No. 2 above. Halladay needs to realize Kratz is trying to stress a low target because he keeps getting his cutters up, and they are getting hit for line drives and bombs. So, if Roy Halladay wanted to go up on Upton there and stop him from leaning over the plate to hit balls below the knees on the outside corner 450 feet, then I'm pretty sure Halladay has the means to say "screw the target, I'm going to give this guy a shave."
The shots of Halladay in the dugout after he was removed were kind of wild. He looked like he was waiting for the sheets to his bunk to get changed at Supermax. I am a HUGE fan of anger -- huge -- but the intensity can be crippling to a baseball player when he's struggling (I know this, ask anyone who ever had to duck my bat after a strikeout).
Roy needs to cool off. Yes, it rained and the mound got gummy. Yes, he can't catch a break. Yes, Chooch is your preferred catcher. Yes, slick balls, for whatever that's worth. But until you can control the weather, control gravity, control Carlos Ruiz's crazed obsession with Ritalin, and control who is rubbing what on your balls ... these are things that must be allowed to roll off one's back.
Roy needs some Zen. What's Phil Jackson up to? Someone give Roy his number. And let's see if his start against the Mets Monday brings a little more balance to the guy. It would make it easier to figure out how much, exactly, he has left in the tank.