The sexy headline from Roy Halladay’s near-complete-game victory at San Diego on Sunday was that the Philadelphia Phillies’ ace struck out 14 batters over his 8 2/3 brilliant innings, tying his career high. But what should have stood out was this: Halladay threw 130 pitches.
Why would Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel ask his No. 1 starter to throw 130 pitches — the most in the majors this season — in a relatively meaningless April game? Because closer Jose Contreras was placed on the disabled list that morning, and because set-up-man-turned-fill-in-closer Ryan Madson was unavailable (and sore) after pitching both Friday and Saturday. Up by three runs in the ninth, Manuel sent Halladay back to the mound with 113 pitches, and only after Halladay put the tying runs on base with two outs did Manuel pull him, bringing in Antonio Bastardo to record the final out and earn the save.
For me, even more than his superb skills, it is Halladay’s durability that sets him apart from all the other top starting pitchers in the game. Over the past five seasons, only Detroit’s Justin Verlander has averaged more pitches per start (109.7 versus 106.9) than Halladay.
Some other National League pitcher may pry away the Cy Young Award from Halladay this year by cobbling together a more outwardly dazzling season. But none of those contenders could do what Halladay did on Sunday. Tim Lincecum’s highest pitch total this season is 115. Josh Johnson’s is 117. Cliff Lee’s is 111.
Even if you want to argue that Halladay isn’t the best pitcher in baseball, you’d have a hard time convincing me he isn’t the most valuable.