History suggests Phillies' Roy Halladay will not regain form

Roy Halladay after giving up a three run HR to John Buck in the second inning on Monday, April 8, 2013 at Citizens Bank Park. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)
Roy Halladay after giving up a three run HR to John Buck in the second inning on Monday, April 8, 2013 at Citizens Bank Park. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)
Posted: April 14, 2013

And so we have arrived at another Roy Halladay start.

At some point, his outings will cease receiving so much scrutiny and the hackneyed expression "it is what it is" will rule the day. Exactly how this developing story is going to end remains to be seen, but history suggests it is not going to end well for the two-time Cy Young Award winner.

Oddly, this start Sunday afternoon against the Miami Marlins will be a bit of a defining one for the 35-year-old pitcher who threw a perfect game against the same franchise in 2010. The Marlins are so bad that if Halladay cannot succeed against them, you have to wonder if there is any hope at all for his future success.

The days leading up to Halladay's third start were certainly among the most interesting in this drama, which has seen the pitcher face lethargy, a stomach virus, the powerful Atlanta Braves, and the less imposing New York Mets. He is, by the way, winless in all those battles.

After Halladay was roughed up by the Mets last week, Ruben Amaro Jr. made it clear that Halladay will get as long as he needs to make things right because he has earned that right in the eyes of the general manager and manager Charlie Manuel.

The manager made an interesting comparison when he was asked how long he can stay with Halladay in his starting rotation.

"You guys used to get on me about Brad Lidge, and I used to look down there and, to me, Brad was still probably the best I had," Manuel said, referring to the 2009 season when his closer was 0-8 with a 7.21 ERA and 11 blown saves. "If I was going to lose the game, it was going to be with Brad Lidge. I was committed to Brad Lidge. If I commit to you, then I commit to you. Whatever happens is going to happen, that's how I look at it."

There is a bit of revisionist history there. With Lidge on the disabled list in June, the closer role was handed to Ryan Madson, who promptly went 0-2 with three blown saves and a 4.22 ERA in 11 appearances. You have to wonder: If Madson had been successful, would Lidge have been given his job back?

Regardless of what Amaro and Manuel say, there could come a time when the Phillies have to make a hard decision about Halladay, especially if he's still struggling and the team is competing for a playoff spot in mid-July.

There are similarities between the Halladay and Lidge cases. Both are good, hardworking men who arrived at the ballpark one day to discover that significant life had been stripped from their arms. Lidge relied more on his fastball than Halladay. It was the one pitch that could set up the diving slider that made hitters look like fools as they chased balls in the dirt.

Without his 95 m.p.h. fastball, Lidge became a pedestrian pitcher who showed a lot of guts, guile, and class during his final three seasons with the Phillies.

Halladay has more pitches at his disposal, but that does not make his loss of velocity any less significant. The Phillies can say it's all about his command, but when you don't throw as hard, it's far more difficult to throw quality strikes.

Manuel often refers to Halladay as a taller version of Greg Maddux because he believes they both had the real estate mentality that location, location, location meant far more than radar-gun readings. There's some truth to that, but the reality is that Maddux was not nearly the same pitcher when his velocity started to decline in the latter stages of his career.

From 1988 through 2002, Maddux was 265-134 with a 2.68 ERA. He led the National League in innings pitched five times and ERA four times. For the remaining six years of his career, with a fastball topping out at 88 m.p.h., he was 82-75 with a 4.13 ERA and pitched for four different teams.

Halladay will be a free agent after this season. If he wants to continue pitching, you get the feeling his career is headed in the same direction that Maddux's went at the end when he was far more battler than dominator.


Contact Bob Brookover at bbrookover@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @brookob.

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