Today Roy Halladay pitched a 10-inning complete game at home against the Tigers. It took him only 107 pitches. Through 9 innings he was matched pitch for pitch by Detroit's Jeremy Bonderman, who needed only 96 pitches for what would have normally been a dominant complete game victory. Bonderman gave up a homer to Alex Rios on his first pitch. Halladay allowed one to Magglio Ordonez in the 2nd. From the 3rd to the bottom half of the 10th, when Fernando Rodney relieved Bonderman, only four runners made it as far as second base. Each pitcher allowed six hits, and zero walks.
The key here is that Bonderman seemed to be feeding off of the elder Halladay, who demonstrates as much mound poise as any pitcher in baseball. Between them they only struck out six hitters (2 for Halladay, 4 for Bonderman). In 2006 Bonderman averaged 8.5 K/9IP, which most pundits will tell you is a great sign of his effectiveness. But Halladay won more games and pitched more innings with an ERA almost a run lower than Bonderman's, despite averaging only 5.4 K/9IP. Both Halladay and Bonderman display excellent control, rarely giving up free passes, but while Halladay lets his defense do most of the work, one of Bonderman's only weaknesses has been that he is often apparently seeking the K. This can lead to tiring innings, even when no damage is done, and explains why Halladay pitched the 7th in 24/32 (75%) starts, while Bonderman made it that far only 18/34 (53%) times. If Bonderman was truly emulating Halladay, and continues to do so, this will be the season that he pitches like the top-flight ace he has long been predicted to become.
Although the Cy Young discussion in the American League must start with Johan Santana, these two have to be considered among the frontrunners in the second tier (yes, Santana has the first tier to himself, at least for now). Halladay finished 3rd last season (as well as winning a Cy in 2003), and is pitching in front of the best lineup of his career. Bonderman is a very experienced 24-year-old, with 127 career starts and a World Series appearance already, also pitching in front of one of the leagues strongest offenses (and a stellar defense).