Roy Halladay: Hall of Fame talent gone too soon

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If it wasn’t for a shoulder that betrayed him while his talents otherwise remained at their peak, it’s possible that Roy Halladay would’ve still be an active pitcher. Guys with his gifts and drive often last twenty seasons, after all, and 2017 would’ve been his 20th. If he had continued to pitch, he might have 270 or 280 wins and the only question about the remainder of his baseball career might’ve been whether he would wear a Phillies or a Blue Jays cap on his plaque in Cooperstown. His shoulder did betray him, however, ending his career at the age of 36. And, of course, he died today, tragically, at the age of 40.

While an abrupt end to a career after spending one’s whole life in baseball may cause some players to sulk or flail, Halladay took to his early retirement easily. Always an intense man on the field, in retirement, Halladay revealed to the public just how affable, easy going and downright goofy he could be.

He dressed up as Jamie Moyer to an 80s-themed Halloween partyHe took a fan who wanted nothing more than to have Halladay take him to the zoo, to the zooHe goofed on A-RodHe got into fights with Roger Clemens over social media, and had the public on his side. He got multiple speeding tickets in one day but had the humility to laugh about it. And, of course, he took to his new hobby — aviation — with a passion and joy.

Those who knew him personally and those who loved him will no doubt be sharing their stories about Halladay the man in the coming days. I want to talk about Halladay the ballplayer for a moment, because at a time like this all that can make a person feel better is concentrating on the joy he created, and most of us experienced the joy of Roy Halladay through his pitching.

Halladay’s career started slowly, as he was famously demoted all the way back to single-A ball after his first couple of years in the majors with the Blue Jays. There he rebuilt his delivery and his approach. Back to the bigs for good in 2002, Halladay embarked on a ten-year peak that few if any pitchers have duplicated in recent memory.

From 2002-2011, Halladay went 170-75 with a 2.97 ERA and 1,699 strikeouts in 2,194 2/3 innings. He went to eight All-Star Games, won two Cy Young Awards, in 2003 and 2010, and finished second twice more. During that span, he led his league in wins twice, innings four times and complete games seven times. He never won an ERA crown, but he finished second three times, third twice and fifth twice. bWAR ranked him as his league’s top pitcher in four of those seasons, and he was in the top four eight times.

Halladay’s 62.4 bWAR from ages 25-34 ranks as the 10th best ever among pitchers. Everyone else in the top 16 on the list is a Hall of Famer.

87.7 – Walter Johnson
77.3 – Pete Alexander
70.6 – Pedro Martinez
70.2 – Roger Clemens
68.0 – Greg Maddux
67.2 – Tom Seaver
64.9 – Lefty Grove
63.8 – Bob Gibson
63.0 – Ed Walsh
62.4 – Roy Halladay
58.8 – Christy Mathewson
58.5 – Warren Spahn
58.1 – Fergie Jenkins
58.1 – Eddie Plank
57.0 – Gaylord Perry
55.6 – Carl Hubbard

Halladay’s slow start and early retirement prevented him from putting up the sorts of overall career numbers most of those guys did, but the greatness of his peak should overcome the length of his career. He still got 200 wins, finishing with 203, in an era when wins for starting pitchers became harder and harder to come by. While he only reached the postseason twice — in 2010 and 2011 — he tossed a no-hitter against the Reds in the NLDS in 2010. He also tossed the 20th perfect game in major league history, blanking the Florida Marlins in order on May 29, 2010. He tossed ten inning games twice, pitching a shutout in one in 2003 and winning a second one in 2007.

In recent years, elite starting pitchers have had a hard time getting Hall of Fame support, mostly due to the fact that win totals aren’t what they once were. Guys like Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling are notable oversights in this regard. I suspected, before today, that Halladay would have similar trouble gaining induction due to his relatively short career. I don’t know what his untimely death will do for his Hall of Fame candidacy. It’s a crass question to ask, honestly, and one I don’t want to dwell on at the moment.

I do, however, think it’s worth thinking about Halladay’s career and acknowledging its undeniable greatness today. Partially because it helps to think of the good times when we’ve lost someone. Partially because there’s nothing else we can do.

And That Happened: Sunday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Braves 10, Marlins 9: The Braves rallied for six runs, all with two outs, in the bottom of the ninth to walk off winners on getaway day against the Marlins. The Marlins took a 6-0 lead in the fourth inning after Lewis Brinson cracked a grand slam down the left field line. Miguel Rojas hit a two-run homer in the seventh to bring the Marlins’ lead back to six runs at 8-2. The Braves entered the bottom of the ninth trailing 9-4, but Marlins relievers Brad Ziegler and Tayron Guerrero both melted down. Here’s what happened. It’s the Braves’ largest ninth-inning comeback in exactly eight years, when this happened:

Red Sox 5, Orioles 0: J.D. Martinez homered twice, tying teammate Mookie Betts for the major league lead in home runs with 15. Andrew Benintendi also homered and picked up three hits. Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings, striking out seven. The Orioles had their opportunities, racking up 13 hits, but went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and only one of their 13 hits went for extra bases. The Orioles’ 13 hits were the most compiled by a team that was shut out since August 25, 2008 when the Dodgers racked up 13 while being shut out by the Phillies. It’s only the 22nd time it’s happened dating back to 1908, according to Baseball Reference.

Athletics 9, Blue Jays 2: Daniel Mengden was magnificent for the A’s, tossing seven scoreless frames on two hits and a walk with two strikeouts. Marcus Semien hit a two-run home run and Matt Chapman picked up three hits. The Jays committed four errors on what was a very forgettable afternoon.

Cubs 6, Reds 1: Things haven’t been going well this year for Yu Darvish, but they did go well at least on Sunday afternoon. The right-hander held the Reds to a lone run on two hits and three walks with seven punch-outs across six innings, lowering his ERA on the season to 4.95. Kyle Schwarber and Javier Baez hit back-to-back homers in the second inning off of Tyler Mahle. Joey Votto was the only Red to have more than one hit.

Mets 4, Diamondbacks 1: Clay Buchholz made his first start in over a year and it went well. He held the Mets to one run, which came on Amed Rosario‘s solo home run in the top of the sixth, ultimately the hit that knocked Buchholz out of the game. Rosario added another homer in the seventh, when the Mets scored three runs to take a lead they’d never relinquish. Noah Syndergaard fanned seven in seven innings, giving up one run on six hits and a walk. D-Backs first baseman Paul Goldschmidt remains mired in a season-long slump. He went 1-for-4 with a single and now owns an uncharacteristic .690 OPS.

Padres 8, Pirates 5: The Padres rallied for four runs in the top of the ninth, turning a 5-4 deficit into an 8-5 lead. They rapped out five singles and benefited from an error as well. Christian Villanueva hit his 12th homer of the season, a two-run blast in the fourth inning. Austin Meadows knocked his first major league homer.

Dodgers 7, Nationals 2: This was mostly a clinic on power, as the Dodgers hit three homers, one each from Yasmani Grandal, Enrique Hernandez, and Yasiel Puig. Trea Turner hit one for the Nationals. Alex Wood pitched well, holding the Nationals to two runs on three hits and a walk with four strikeouts, but left the game after apparently injuring himself warming prior to the bottom of the seventh inning. Stephen Strasburg gave up three runs on five hits and four walks with seven strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings.

White Sox 3, Rangers 0: This one was all Reynaldo Lopez. The 24-year-old fired eight shutout frames, yielding only two hits and two walks while striking out eight. In doing so, he lowered his ERA to 2.98. The three runs came on a solo homer from Welington Castillo in the second and a two-run Leury Garcia single in the third.

Yankees 10, Royals 1: Tyler Austin blasted a pair of homers, giving him eight on the season. Miguel Andujar and Austin Romine also homered for the Yankees in what was a drubbing of the lowly Royals. Sonny Gray went eight innings, giving up a lone run on four hits and a walk with five strikeouts. The Yankees now have a major league-best 30-13 record while the Royals drop to 14-32. Only the White Sox (.302) have a worse winning percentage than the Royals (.304).

Cardinals 5, Phillies 1: Jack Flaherty was phenomenal for the Cardinals, striking out 13 batters while limiting the Phillies to a run on two hits and a walk over 7 2/3 innings. 21-year-old Freddy Peralta also struck out 13 earlier this season. Before Flaherty and Peralta, the last pitcher younger than 23 years old to strike out 13 in a game was Noah Syndergaard nearly three years ago against the Diamondbacks. Aaron Nola, who has been ace-like all year for the Phillies, didn’t have his best stuff on Sunday, surrendering four runs over six innings to the Cardinals. Rhys Hoskins homered but Odubel Herrera‘s on-base streak finally ended at 45 consecutive games. It’s tied for the fourth-longest in Phillies history.

Twins 3, Brewers 1: Logan Morrison knocked in two runs with a single to right field in the bottom of the eighth, breaking a 1-1 tie. That proved to be the game-winning hit as Fernando Rodney came in and struck out the side in the top of the ninth to seal the deal.

Giants 9, Rockies 5: The Giants scored nine runs for a second consecutive day. Gorkys Hernandez, Brandon Belt, and Nick Hundley each homered, accounting for six of the nine runs. Nice. The Rockies got three hits each from Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story but it wasn’t enough. Starters Ty Blach and Tyler Anderson both had forgettable days on the mound, giving up five and four runs in 5 1/3 and 4 1/3 innings, respectively.

Angels 5, Rays 2: Shohei Ohtani continued to pitch well, holding the Rays to a pair of runs on six hits and a walk with nine strikeouts. With seven major league starts under his belt, he’s sporting a 3.35 ERA. He’s also batting .321/.367/.619. Sergio Romo started for the Rays for a second day in a row. He pitched an inning yesterday before giving way to Ryan Yarbrough. This time, he got four outs before Matt Andriese relieved him. Martin Maldonado homered for the Angels; Johnny Field went yard for the Rays. Matt Duffy collected three hits as well.

Tigers, Mariners (11 innings): Mitch Haniger hit a game-tying two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to send the game into extras. Jean Segura broke the 2-2 tie in the bottom of the 11th with an RBI single. Tigers starter Francisco Liriano brought a no-hitter into the seventh inning but lost it when Haniger singled to center. Liriano ended up giving up the one hit and walking three while striking out five on 102 pitches over eight scoreless innings.

Astros 3, Indians 1: Lance McCullers had his best stuff working, bringing a bid for a no-hitter into the sixth inning. He ended up going seven frames, giving up just a hit and two walks with eight strikeouts. Brian McCann broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the seventh with a two-run home run off of Carlos Carrasco.