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Saturday, April 12, 2008

A Tribute to Doc

It's may be hard to believe that a former Cy Young winner, who has averaged 15.5 wins a season for the past six seasons could be the most underrated player in baseball, but I believe that is the case. When pundits and prognosticators discuss the best starting pitchers they inevitable, and appropriately, point to Johan Santana, Jake Peavy, Brandon Webb, C. C. Sabathia, and Josh Beckett. Here on the west coast, the name John Lackey might be thrown into the mix. In the midwest, you might get arguments for Chris Carpenter, Aaron Harang, and Carlos Zambrano. But, the name you never hear is Roy "Doc" Halladay, Toronto's soft-speaking, soft-throwing Ace, who has quietly accumulated a record of 112-56. That's right, exactly a 2-1 ratio of wins to losses. Among active pitchers with 100 or more decision, only Johan Santana and Pedro Martinez post better winning percentages. More impressively, however, among ALL pitchers in baseball history, Roy Halladay ranks 13th, ahead of legends like Sandy Koufax, Roger Clemens, and Randy Johnson. And, as he is only an inning away from shutting out the Rangers as I'm writing this, it appears that number will be edging up.

At age 31, this is Doc's 10th major league season. He is a pitcher who relies on control, movement, an impenetrable calm on the mound, and an absurd ability to roll a ground ball almost every time the situation dictates. Much like Greg Maddux, he actually urges the opposition to put the ball in play by working quickly and throwing strikes. One of the reasons he goes unnoticed is that he hasn't struck out more than 140 hitters since his Cy Young season in 2003. It is also one of the reasons he has more complete games than any other pitcher in baseball over that span, and has pitched 220+ innings in four of the last six season. His ambivalence towards velocity suggests an ability to pitch effectively for at least another decade, quite possible deep into his forties (again, like Maddux). That would give him an outside shot at 300 wins and a ticket to the hall of fame.

Halladay, quietly, as always, signed a $40 Million extension in 2006 (more than a season before his contract expired) which keeps him in Toronto through 2010. Doc's presence is a big reason why Toronto had one of the best rotations in baseball last season and is likely to be even better in 2008, as Shawn Marcum and Dustin McGowan mature (and, hopefully, A. J. Burnett stays healthy). If Toronto does make a run at the postseason this year, it will be because the backend of the Blue Jay rotation takes cues from the Doctor.

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