So now that we’ve discussed what kind of “stuff” Roy Halladay has, let’s look at performance, and specifically, let’s look at it in comparison to the man he is replacing in 2010, Cliff Lee. Per request, I’m going to throw in the other best pitchers of the last 2 seasons in some comparisons, Tim Lincecum, C.C. Sabathia, Zach Greinke, Felix Hernandez and Johan Santana (apologies to Dan Haren, had to cut the line somewhere), to see if we can make the argument that the best pitcher in ALL of baseball now resides on Pattison Ave.
After his magical playoff performance, a number of Phillies fans seemed to be expecting a Cy Young season out of Lee in 2010, and they weren’t crazy for thinking that. As a result, while some people are miffed the Phillies don’t have both pitchers on the squad right now, there are others who think we actually downgraded ourselves for 2010. I am not one of those people, and I hope to explain why here.
Basic Stats, 2008-09
First, let’s just look at some basic numbers for the last two seasons (average of the two). Keep in mind that these were, BY FAR, the best 2 seasons of Lee’s career.
* WAR is Wins Above Replacement and is the main metric used by FanGraphs
*VORP is Value Over Replacement Player and is the main metric used by Baseball Prospectus
- First thing to note is that Halladay bests Lee in every single stat, except losses, which are as much a product of the team he was on than the pitcher. There aren’t any huge margins, but the margins are there. More on this later.
- It’s pretty clear the best 2 pitchers of the last two years have been Tim Lincecum and Roy Halladay. Probably Lincecum by a hair because of his dominant H/9 and K/9 numbers, but you could really make an argument for either pitchers.
- What differentiates Halladay from the other elite pitchers here are his IP, his very low BB/9 rate, and the fact that he a ground ball pitcher.
Let’s return to Halladay barely beating Lee in all these categories. Everyone talks about how Halladay did this in AL East, and that is a big factor. HOW big a factor it was, I did not realize. Over the last 2 seasons, here are the top 10 teams that Lee and Halladay have faced based on IP.
Let me do the math for you real fast. That is 231 INNINGS against the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays. That’s not just “some” pitching against the beasts in the NL East, that’s a FULL SEASON. Now – with that knowledge, go back and look at the chart of stats above again and tell me how you think Halladay would rank against a normal schedule.
In case you were wondering. He had a 2.96 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in those 231 innings, with the majority of the damage coming from the Rays. Against just the Red Sox and Yankees, he was 13-5 with a 2.59 ERA and 0.99 WHIP.
Anyone want to guess how he’ll do against the Pirates, Nationals and Marlins?
Another aspect I want to look at in comparing Lee and Halladay (I’m going to exclude the rest of the pitchers from here on out) is their consistency. We all loved that Lee pounded the strike-zone, pitched late in to games, and didn’t walk anyone. If you can believe it, Halladay is even better in these areas and is better in consistently delivering high-level starts.
Let’s look at some numbers.
Strike %, 2009
Halladay, 68.6% (best in baseball)
BB/9 Rate, 2009
Halladay, 1.3 (best in baseball)
IP per Start, 2008-09
Pete’s Quality Start %*, 2008-09
Starts Giving Up 6+ ER, 2008-09
% of Starts Pitching 6+ Innings, 2008-09
% of Starts Pitching 8+ Innings, 2008-09
Halladay, 46% (best in baseball)
Complete Games, 2008-09
Halladay, 17 (best in baseball)
* A quality start for me is 6 IP/2 ER, 7IP/3ER, or 8-9IP/4ER
So what is my point? All the things we’ve loved about Lee (he was a throwback, ate up innings, challenged hitters) are there with Halladay, only more so. With Lee, you knew there was a 90-some percent chance he was going to go out there and pitch 7+ innings and give up 2 runs or so. With Halladay, the percentage, and the results, are a little higher. Halladay has only had 3 starts in the last 2 years where he didn’t complete the 6th inning. If you remember how much trouble our guys had doing this entire year, that will be a huge help for our bullpen’s health down the stretch.
Obviously there are no numbers here, and obviously Cliff Lee was a great clubhouse guy, but I’ve read many things that tell me that Roy Halladay is perfect for this team’s chemistry. The best for me, was from Buster Olney…
It’s hard to imagine any superstar player who would have fit more perfectly into the Phillies clubhouse than Halladay will, between his work ethic and his demeanor and the way that he will go about his business. He is the Chase Utley of pitchers, and for at least the next three to four years, the Phillies’ clubhouse culture will be all about winning baseball games — and that is certainly not the case for some teams.
If there is one thing the Phillies have cared about under the Gillick/Amaro regime, it’s character, as signings like Raul Ibanez and Placido Polanco show. If it’s possible for a player to make a team coming off back-to-back NL Pennants more focused on winning, Roy Halladay, who just took about $60-$80 million under market value to play in Philly, is that player.
We will not soon forget the show that Cliff Lee put together this post-season. And most of those who would prefer Lee point to it as the main reason why he should still be wearing red pinstripes. While it’s indisputable that Lee stepped up to the big stage, I have little doubt that Halladay can do the same, and that this is a non-issue. I have 3 reasons why…
- As good as Lee was last year, there is no guarantee he will be that good again. Cole Hamels is just one of many examples of this.
- Roy Halladay has pitched 516.2 career innings against the Yankees and Red Sox and as I showed above, he has dominated them in recent years. He can handle a big stage.
- Halladay is a “stuff” pitcher. As I said in my previous post, players have said that they know what he is throwing and still can’t hit it. Nerves won’t change his stuff. Nerves tend to change location, and affect location pitchers more.
This is not a 2010 issue, but rather a future issue I think should be discussed. I do think that Lee is less of an injury concern than Halladay because he is left-handed, has a smoother delivery and doesn’t throw as hard.
However, Halladay, like Raul Ibanez, has a legendary work ethic, and I think, like Curt Schilling, will be a dominant pitcher into his late 30′s.
Obviously nothing is guaranteed, but a 3-year extension, not 4-5 years, gives the Phillies some insurance here if Halladay were to suffer an injury.
So there you have it. Cliff Lee was one of the top-6 pitchers in baseball the last 2 years, and Roy Halladay has him beat in pretty much every conceivable category, and did it while pitching 50% of his innings against arguably the toughest offensive teams in the league. There is no questions which pitcher I would rather have in 2010, and no question which one I would take through 2013. There is also no question that Halladay’s 3-year extension is far better than anything Lee would have wanted. So… are there any questions left?
Just like last year when the people upset we got Lee instead of Halladay were silenced after that first CG, the same people (I presume it’s the same people that are mad now) will love this deal after Halladay’s first couple starts.
We just got the best pitcher* in baseball folks, and he took a huge discount for the honor to play here for the next several years. Pretend your 2005 self just read that line, take a deep breath, and enjoy it.
*apologies to Timmy Baseball in San Fran