Roy Halladay retired yesterday. While I’m grateful that I don’t have to watch 2011-esque Roy Halladay mow down the Braves (and then be burned for a Cy Young he deserved), I am sad that I won’t be able to watch his closed-together pitching motion that allowed for deceptiveness and movement on his pitches for all these years. Halladay was a true Ace – a “give me the ball, send the relievers home for the day, and let’s win this ballgame” sort that was a throwback to the days where a starter didn’t have a 99 mph fastball to lean back on in the late innings of a ball game.
You will hear many former pitchers and long-time members of the game talk about how pitchers today are handled with kid gloves and overly protected.
First, some numbers:
The last to reach certain milestones, since 1900:
3. Tom Verducci?
Lost in the shuffle of yesterday’s Roy Halladay announcement was the announcement of Mark Prior’s retirement to take a job with the San Diego Padres. Prior became a poster child for what is known as “the Verducci effect”. What is this, you may ask? Tom Verducci is a writer for Sports Illustrated who years ago put forth a theory that increasing a young pitcher’s workload by more than 30 innings over his previous season’s workload drastically increases his risk of injury. The theory has been wildly debated, proven, debunked, and if nothing else, led to a lot more scrutiny over HOW a pitcher gets injured. What teams have found is that overloading their young starters does lead to more risk, but that there really isn’t a magical number. Mark Prior in his early career was a significant example of a pitcher whose workload was significant very early in his career, and his once-brilliant career was all-too-short because of this heavy load, most likely.
What does this mean for the Braves?
The Braves are sitting on a large number of young starters with upside. They’re also looking for someone to eat some more innings to fill out their rotation and keep innings off of their young arms and their bullpen. Halladay is definitely the best-case scenario of a pitcher who took a huge leap forward in innings, got hurt, and then came back. Prior is near to the worst case scenario. The Braves would be wise to look deep into each pitcher to see what can be learned from each.