Inside the Phillies: Halladay seems to confound the pitch-count brigade

The numbers game: Doc took 107 pitches to put away the Mets.
The numbers game: Doc took 107 pitches to put away the Mets. (MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer)
Posted: May 01, 2011

Pitch counts are way cool.

We have no idea who invented this baseball statistic, but it has grown enough in prominence that it has its own Wikipedia page, a sure sign that the people out there in cyberspace believe it is a very important thing.

At the risk of relaying misinformation, Wikipedia tells us that "pitch counts are especially a concern for young pitchers, pitchers recovering from injury, or pitchers who have a history of injuries." Citation needed.

Here is more from Wikipedia: "Before pitch counts became prominent in the 1980s, a pitcher pitched until he could no longer get anyone out or the game was over."

I'm pretty sure those standards still apply even in the pitch-count era, because I used to cover Scott Ruffcorn, and he often pitched until he could no longer get anyone out.

What's most cool about pitch counts is that the math is easy, the science is nonexistent, and the debates can become heated.

The issue is raised now because Roy Halladay pitched for the Phillies Saturday against the New York Mets, and he was coming off a game in which he threw 130 pitches against San Diego.

Perform a Google search and you'll find some stories and blogs about Halladay's pitch count against the Padres. What you won't find is scientific proof that the 130 pitches he threw in his previous start will have an impact on anything the Phillies ace does in the immediate or distant future.

We can tell you for certain that those 130 pitches in San Diego did not stop Halladay from pitching a complete game during the Phillies' 2-1 nationally televised win over the Mets at Citizens Bank Park.

We also can offer some information from an entirely unscientific study performed by The Inquirer's baseball research department during Saturday's game. The research revealed that Halladay has pitched 16 games in his career after throwing at least 120 pitches in a game. He is 9-5 with a 3.29 ERA in those 16 starts. What's interesting about those numbers is that Halladay's overall career ERA is 3.30.

Since 2008, Halladay has pitched seven games after throwing at least 120 pitches, and five times he has pitched a complete game in his next start.

Though Halladay is not philosophically opposed to the idea of limiting pitches, he is a firm believer that the circumstances of a game are far more important than the total number of pitches thrown.

"I think sometimes you throw right at 100 pitches and you do it in six innings with guys on base, and it's a different toll than if you throw 110 pitches and it's basically stress-free," Halladay said. "It's hard to really judge it based on the number of pitches. You have to really know how you normally feel. If you're grinding it and doing it in less innings, sometimes it's tougher."

Little was grinding about Halladay's effort against the Mets, but there was an amazing start to the performance.

Eighteen pitches into the game, he had thrown nothing but strikes and gone through the New York order once. According to Stats LLC, Halladay was the first pitcher to start a game with 18 consecutive strikes since the Mets' Sid Fernandez did it against Pittsburgh on Aug. 16, 1991, at Three Rivers Stadium.

"I did look up there and see it at 17," said John Mayberry Jr., who accounted for the first of the Phillies' two seventh-inning runs with a homer off Mets lefty Jonathon Niese. "Obviously, that's amazing, but it is believable with him."

The Mets did get a run off Halladay in the fourth, but the most impressive thing about that inning was the ace's ability to make sure they got nothing more, despite having runners at first and second with nobody out and at first and third with one out.

After that inning, the Mets had only three more baserunners, and just one got beyond first base.

"He was pretty good," manager Charlie Manuel said.

He was much better than that. Manuel also weighed in on the issue of pitch counts.

"If he goes three times in a row where he's at a lot of pitches - it's in the 120 range or better - that would take its toll over the course of the season," Manuel said. "Also, when it's hot weather, that plays a part in it, too."

Again, there is no scientific evidence to support any of that.

"I never heard of a pitch count until I got into minor-league baseball," Halladay said. "I think it's obviously become a bigger part of the game, a more talked-about part of the game. You never heard people talking about how many pitches Nolan [Ryan] had, coming into the seventh inning. It's something that has evolved and changed and become a larger topic."

That does not mean today's great pitchers are any less macho or durable than the guys from past generations, as suggested by Pat Jordan's story on the Phillies' four aces in the New York Times Magazine. Jordan failed to mention that most starting pitchers don't go the distance today because someone discovered that fresh relievers are better at getting hitters out in the late innings than tired starters.

Maybe the guy who started counting pitches was a late-inning reliever. We know for sure it was not Roy Halladay.


Inside the Phillies: A Little Extra Never Hurts

For the 16th time in his career Saturday, Phillies ace Roy Halladay went to the mound after throwing 120 pitches or more in his previous start. His overall numbers indicate he has no problem handling the extra workload. After throwing 120 pitches or more, his record is 9-5 with a 3.29 ERA and he has gone at least seven innings in 12 of those games. Here is a look at those starts, including the number of pitches he threw previously.

                     NP Prev   Next Start                        Date       Opponent       start      IP       H    R    ER W    K     Result

6-2-2002   Detroit         126       8       11 6    6    1    7       W

6-18-2003   Baltimore      120       7       6    2    2    0    5       W

5-21-2004   Boston         124       6       7    5    5   5    3       ND

5-21-2005   Washington   124       7       4    0    0    2    2       W

8-3-2007   Texas         126       6       7    4    4    2    9       W

8-24-2007   L.A. Angels   125       8     12    3    3    0    5       L

9-4-2007   Boston         124       8       9    5    5    2    7       L

9-10-2007   Detroit         126       8.2    11 3    3    1    3       ND

9-15-2007   Baltimore      123       7       5    1    1    2    2       W

6-30-2008   Seattle         121       9       2    0    0    1    8       W

8-16-2008   Boston         130       9       7    1    1    1    4       W

6-7-2009   Kansas City   133       9       7    0    0    0    6       W

5-18-2010   Pittsburgh      121       9       9    2    2    1    6       L

5-23-2010   Boston         132       5.2    8    7    6    2    1       L

4-19-2011   Milwaukee      123       6.2 10    6    6    2    3       L

4-30-2011   N.Y. Mets      130       9       7    1    1    1    8       W

TOTALS:                       123    122 46 45 23 79                                         9-5, ERA 3.29

 - Bob Brookover


Contact staff writer Bob Brookover at bbrookover@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/brookob

 

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