Roy Halladay isn't having a good start to the 2013 season. Thanks to a rough spring in which he posted a 6.06 ERA with nine walks in 11 innings, it's easier to believe there is something to his first two regular season starts, in which the 36-year-old righty has logged just 7-1/3 innings while collecting two losses. He deserved those Ls, too, as he gave up 12 earned runs, walked six batters, allowed three homers, and, to top it off, even mixed two wild pitches in.
This start is also making it more believable that his 2012 season, in which he posted a career-worst ERA+ of 89, was not the fluke that the Phillies and their fans hoped it was. Now, it's still early, and things could reverse course, but as was covered in this space earlier on Wednesday, early might not have anything to do with his trouble. This could all mean bad things, from a historical perspective, for Roy Halladay's quest to log career victory 200.
In his last start of 2012, Halladay earned win 199. He wasn't all that good, allowing four runs, three walks, and a homer in just five innings, but the Phillies put up nine runs behind him, and he came away with the W. This capped off a month in which Halladay's ERA was 6.84, thanks to increased walk rates and five homers allowed in 26 frames. Despite all of this, he still managed to come away with three wins and just one loss in his five starts for the month, a reminder that, with the offense clicking behind him, he can still squeeze out a win he maybe doesn't deserve.
That is why it's too soon to panic over when Halladay is going to win his next contest -- he doesn't even need to pitch well to luck into a win. At the same time, however, he does need to pitch enough innings to even be eligible for a win, and he's been so terrible in his first two outings that throwing five complete innings where he also has a lead seems like too tall a task for even the 6-foot-6 Halladay. At least, for this particular iteration of the hurler.
So far, he's failed just twice in his quest to become the 112th pitcher in history with 200 career wins. Twice isn't a whole lot, when you consider how long a career has to be just to get to 200 victories, and all of the factors that make winning a game a random and/or difficult proposition. If he doesn't luck into a win soon, though, and continues to pitch poorly, he could end up in some poor company.
Well, poor company in this context, anyway. Normally, aligning yourself with the likes of Charlie Hough, Steve Carlton, and hey, even Tim Wakefield, is a positive thing. Not in the context of 200 wins, however: these three took the longest to make the jump from 199 to 200, with six, seven, and eight starts, respectively, separating the two victories for these pitchers.
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Hough recorded win 199 on June 28 of 1992, while with the Chicago White Sox. He then proceeded to lose three of his next five starts while recording no decisions in the others, before finally winning again on August 5. Oddly, Hough wasn't bad during this stretch: he threw 47 innings in six starts, and with an ERA of 3.18. The White Sox scored just 10 runs in the first five starts, though, and then nine in start number six, so you can blame the lineup for the delay.
Steve Carlton can make no such excuse. Overall, his season was a good one, as he posted a 2.84 ERA and 126 ERA+ in 1978 while with the Phillies. However, in the middle of the year, things went a little awry. He won #199 on June 22, and then lost three of his next six, with three no decisions, before claiming #200 a month later on July 23. In that stretch of losses, Carlton's ERA was 6.03, with nine homers allowed in 31 innings, and an opponent OPS of 884 -- this at a time when the average hitter owned a 692 OPS. It's pretty clear whose fault the delay was here.
Then there's Tim Wakefield, whose eight starts between victories is a record. He's a bit of Hough and Carlton, as the Red Sox got in his way multiple times, but Wakefield's own performance didn't help on plenty of occasions, too. He came away victorious against Seattle on July 24 despite giving up seven runs that included a grand slam to Brendan Ryan, and didn't win again until September 13, when Boston's lineup scored 18 runs for him. In the seven starts in and one relief appearance in between, Wakefield posted a 4.79 ERA. Part of this was his own doing for not pitching well, but there were also times where it was painfully obvious then-manager Terry Francona was trying to let Wakefield do more than just win with the five minimum innings -- it prolonged the streak, and also helped contribute, just more quietly than certain other events, to Boston's eventual missing of the postseason by one game. September gets all the attention, but things like this were what made September's conclusion possible to begin with.
Halladay has just missed win 200 twice. He's not at the same length of failure that these three were, but without some luck or a complete turnaround, he will be soon enough. Hopefully for Halladay, if pitching better isn't an option, he'll still manage to pull out a win soon to keep the weight of history from piling on top of the problems of the present.