No Chase Utley for 76 games. No Ryan Howard for 84 games. Worst eighth-inning ERA in baseball for most of the season. Costly, poor defense from Placido Polanco’s replacements at third base.
It’s crazy to say, but through all of it, the Phillies would still be right in the wild-card race if they got just a bit more out of Roy Halladay.
Halladay has made 24 starts this season. The Phillies have absolutely no reason to send him out on the mound again, so he’ll hopefully finish the 2012 season with those 24 starts. Only 15 were quality starts.
The dominance just wasn’t there. In 2010, Halladay had 15 starts in which he gave up one or no runs. Last year, he had 13. This year? Try five.
There were seven games this season where Doc allowed four or more runs. If you reduce that to, say, four games, the Phillies are probably three wins better, and a mere game or two behind the second wild-card spot.
I’m not a big fan of “if this happened, then this would have happened” line of thinking that leads to statements like “if Halladay didn’t give up that first-inning homer the Phillies would have won, 2-1!” That standpoint takes for granted that Halladay would have been throwing different pitches in different situations if the first-inning homer never occurred.
So, yeah, maybe if Halladay pitched better the Phillies wouldn’t have been far enough out of the playoff race to sell at the deadline. Maybe they wouldn’t have played pressure-free baseball and thrived doing it.
But looking at the standings and his numbers as of Sept. 24, it really sinks in just how much Halladay’s mediocrity affected the Phillies this season. It was said the past two years that the one player the Phils couldn’t afford to lose was Doc.
This season, they didn’t just lose him for seven weeks with a lat strain. They lost him for five months after a brilliant April, when he transformed from the Ace of Aces to just another pitcher with a solid strikeout rate and a 4.00-plus ERA.
It’s sad. It’s unfortunate. It’s hard to believe that Halladay won’t always be what he was in 2010 and 2011. But the problems he’s dealing with – a tired shoulder, changes in his rotator cuff, less life on his cutter and sinker, less speed on his fastball – are legitimate issues that pop up at this point in a pitcher’s career.
It happened to Greg Maddux, a no-doubt Hall of Famer who had a 4.13 ERA over his last six seasons. It can happen to anybody.
The Phillies are hoping that this was just a blip on Halladay’s otherwise clean radar screen. That he comes back next year and doesn’t miss in the middle of the plate and allow so many early home runs. That he stops trying to nibble and maintains the brilliant walk rates of seasons past.
If not … well, it’s easy to imagine a team so heavily reliant on pitching playing the “What if?” game again next fall.