That night, the 34-year-old veteran threw 126 pitches, all of which a pitching coach like Dubee would describe as "high-stress." Halladay allowed a run against the second batter he faced, then spent the rest of the night keeping his team in position for a come-from-behind victory that it would never seize, the Cardinals finishing with a 1-0 victory that sent the Phillies home for the offseason.
"We leave the season last year, he pitches a whale of a game the last day - was it happening then?" Dubee said. "Did it happen when he started long-tossing? You really don't know when it happened."
But you do know logic, and logic suggests that a player's injury risk increases as the effort that he expends increases. Loading 20 sofas onto a truck leaves you more susceptible to a back strain than loading 10 sofas. And thanks to an ever-dwindling supply of run support, the Phillies' rotation has loaded a lot of sofas over the past couple of seasons.
We do not mean to suggest that Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels are going to wake up with their left arms missing at some point this season. There is no evidence to suggest Halladay is the victim of anything other than misfortune. But there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the Phillies should not treat his injury the way they have treated most of their roster situations over the past few seasons. In other words, by adding more pitching.
A team can never have enough pitching, but it most certainly can have too little of everything else. And it can reach a point where it asks its pitchers to carry it further than they are physically able.
Last year, according to Baseball-Reference.com's Average Leverage Index, the average level of pressure that Halladay faced throughout his starts was the second greatest among National League starters. And he endured that stress over 233 2/3 innings, compared with NL leader James McDonald's 171 innings. If that sounds like a bunch of gobbledygook, feel free to ignore it, because it only reinforces what you have seen, that Halladay has been involved in a lot of tight, low-scoring games, the balances of which have hung on his arm.
The point isn't that a high-stress workload caused Halladay's injury. It's that the Phillies' reaction to the injury should not be limited to a search for a pitcher capable of absorbing Halladay's workload. It should also include a search for a player or players capable of lessening the workload that the rotation is forced to endure, for a player or players capable of lessening the number of high-stress pitches that these starters are forced to throw.
The Phillies opted against adding such a weapon this offseason, bowing out of the bidding for Michael Cuddyer and showing little interest in fellow outfielders Carlos Beltran and Josh Willingham. Tuesday, assistant general manager Scott Proefrock touted the performance of non-roster-invitee-turned-semi-regular-leftfielder Juan Pierre, who entered last night hitting .314 with a .354 on-base percentage. But while it is true that the 34-year-old veteran has exceeded expectations, he is still a niche player who has done little to replace the power missing in Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. Heading into Tuesday night's game, the Phillies ranked in the bottom third of the NL in walk, home run and extra-base hit ratios, and in the middle of the pack in just about every conventional offensive category, including runs. Not surprisingly, their record also ranks in the middle of the pack.
Tuesday, Charlie Manuel contorted his face as he searched for the answer to a questioner who had wondered whether the Phillies were in worse need of another hitter or another pitcher.
"Being as I think we're going to get Utley and Howard back, I think I'd take a pitcher," Manuel said.
He might not get either. The addition of two more wild-card spots to the postseason could decrease the pool of teams who consider themselves out of contention and are willing to deal. At this point, it is difficult to identify potential targets who are even worth speculating about. The Phillies might just have to win with what they've got, an objective they have not yet shown the regular ability to accomplish.
Contact David Murphy at firstname.lastname@example.org.