Roy Halladay, still great, has room for improvement in 2012

Just imagine, Roy Halladay can improve in 2012

We know Roy Halladay is good and without question he is the ace of aces on the Phillies pitching staff. Following a 2010 Cy Young Award winning season in his first year in red pinstripes Halladay went out and had another Cy Young-worthy season (finishing second to Clayton Kershaw), with a higher win percentage (but two fewer actual wins), shaving eleven points off his ERA, leading the league in complete games (eight), allowing fewer hits and less than half as many home runs.

And yet for some reason, as good as he was, it seemed like he had to work a little harder last year to put up those numbers. We may be nit-picking here, and finding a flaw in Halladay’s game is like finding the lost ark, but take a look at a couple of the deeper numbers that stat heads will sometimes refer to. Halladay increased (albeit marginally) in walks per nine innings (BB/9) from 1.08 to 1.35 and opposing batters hit .298 on balls in play (BABIP), up eight points from 2010. One thing that was somewhat noticeable for Halladay in 2011 was how hitters attacked him early in the game, and early in the count.

Batters hit an astounding .387 off of Halladay on the first pitch of an at-bat last season, up 66 points from 2010. On a 1-0 count, batters hit .443 off of him in 2010 but take a look at how much Halladay improved in that area in 2011, and to add on look at the difference from one year to the next with one strike from Halladay…

Year First Pitch 1-0 Count 0-1 Count
2010 .321 .443 .284
2011 .387 .231 .297

What does it mean? First, it shows that batters know that the best chance they have to get on base against Halladay is by connecting on somethign early in the count. Last season the only count that batters had a better average against Halladay than the first pitch of an at-bat was on a 3-1 count (.400). Just about every pitcher in the game will have a higher opposing batter’s batting average on a 3-1 count, and a 3-0 count.

Roy Halladay

Second, it gives Halladay something to improve, and that is where opposing batters should start to get worried. Halladay’s work ethic is well-documented. If he sets his sights on something to work on, he’s going to master it as much as possible.

Lead-off batters in games Halladay pitched hit a combined .452 last season, and lead-off batters for any inning against Halladay hit .317. It goes without saying that when lead-off hitters get on base it makes things tougher for the pitcher, regardless of stature. This is one of the reasons Halladay saw his total innings decrease last season.

But there is a great stat when it comes to Halladay, and it shows just how well he works when the bases start to get crowded with the other jerseys. Halladay allowed hitters to put together a .091 batting average with the bases loaded, and a .167 batting average with two runners in scoring position. With a runner on third, batters hit just .182 against Halladay.

Again, there is nothing really to be overly concerned with about Halladay for Phillies fans. Halladay is an ace and will be a horse on the mound. He is likely going to be great once again in 2012. I am just suggesting that there is a chance he could be better.

That should give any fans some chills.

Stats: Baseball Reference (2011, 2010)

Photos: Phillies (via Twitter), Getty Images via Zimbio

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