This is not Roy Halladay. Not really. Roy Halladay throws 92 miles per hour with crazy movement. Roy Halladay dominates lineups of mere humans. Roy Halladay has as many no hitters as he has Cy Young Awards. Roy Halladay is just short of being a pitching god. This is not Roy Halladay -- at least, not the Roy Halladay we know. That particular Roy Halladay is not coming back.
That kind of judgment is not making Halladay's early struggles any easier on Phillies fans. Sure, you could rationalize away his spring training performance, his 6.06 ERA, and decreased velocity. But in the cold light of April, Halladay has scuffled in both of his starts, not getting out of the fifth inning in either one, and allowing twelve runs in fewer than eight innings. His control, which was among the best in baseball history, has abandoned him, and he remains just one tantalizing victory short of 200 for his career.
At this rate, it's hard to imagine this Roy Halladay ever getting there. Ryan Sommers, of the tremendous Crashburn Alley, breaks down the former ace's trouble -- how his release point has changed, how he's missing his spots, and the problems with him potentially overthrowing -- and concludes:
"[Halladay's] early returns (and they are early; I don't mean to lose sight of the fact that this is only 2 regular season starts we're talking about) indicate a much bigger problem. It may be that there are no stylistic tweaks or innovations of approach that Halladay can make to establish a new level of effectiveness. His mechanics, command, and stuff are all totally out of sorts right now. This isn't a cheap fix-me-up condo that Roy has inherited, salvageable with some hard work and investment. The building has been torn down to the rebar, and nothing short of a complete rebuild will make it habitable again."
That sounds... not good.
And from a less analytical perspective, people are falling all over each other to describe how difficult it is to watch Halladay at this point. That watching him struggle with his command and his velocity is emotionally draining and mimics physical pain. I'm sympathetic to that, as I'm currently suffering through a mourning period for my favorite pitcher of all time, Johan Santana. I remember how transcendent Johan seemed when he was winning his two Cy Young awards, and how he seemed to dominate every start effortlessly. That every game he pitched was a guaranteed win. Losing that mooring and being cast adrift into uncertainty is unnerving.
But let's also keep in mind that this is a natural part of a great pitcher's life, and was probably inevitable. Not every great hurler gets to finish in the impeccable style of Mike Mussina or Mariano Rivera. In fact, as you'd suspect, nearly all of them have to be dragged out of the game kicking and screaming. I mean, if they were still pitching well, they would still be pitching. So, before you let yourself get bent out of shape over the Halladay's performance, remember the immortal words of Battlestar Galactica: "All this has happened before. All this will happen again."
It happened to Pete Alexander, who pitched almost 22 unfortunate innings for the Phillies in 1930, in which he allowed 40 hits, five homers, and had a 9.14 ERA. It happened to Robin Roberts, who posted a 4.82 ERA near the height of the pitcher's greatest era in 1966. It happened to Jim Bunning, who capped several years of ineffective wandering by posting a 65 ERA+ and 5.48 ERA for the Phils in 110 innings in 1971. It especially happened to Steve Carlton, who had a 5.72 ERA in 338 innings (a 75 ERA+) over his final three seasons, until he was mercifully, finally, cut by the Twins in 1988. By and large, great pitchers keep pitching until they have to be told to stop. Don't act surprised. We all knew this was coming. And after watching him for the past twelve months are any of us even a little surprised, even if we are disappointed?