We've seen and heard a lot of people tracing Roy Halladay's recent swoon to the plethora of trade talks that surrounding him through July. We have a bit of a different theory, which disturbs us even more.
Earlier this season, we were getting prepared to write yet another love letter to Doc, and his amazing performance in the season's first half. To glean some additional information on Doc's excellence, we wandered over to Fangraphs. And to be honest, setting us loose in Fangraphs is a bit like sending a blind man into a strip club: We're not really sure what's in front of us, but it's definitely fun to feel our way around.
One thing that really stood out for us in that initial visit (and we've only referred to it vaguely around here) is the percentage of cut fastballs that Halladay throws. For the season, Halladay is unleashing his cutter on 42.9% of his pitches, which ranks third behind the Royals' Brian Bannister (53%) and the D-Backs' Doug Davis (46.6%). After those three, there's a drop off of more than 10% to Scott Feldman (31.4%).
The reason that most pitchers steer clear of throwing cutters (or throwing them too often) is because of the wear and tear that the pitch puts on the arm. And while we recognize the Doc is a cyborg from another dimension, it still made us worry when we saw just how many times he was going to that well. Halladay's arm has never been cut on (to our knowledge), and seeing that number in the Fangraphs charts scared us a bit. So much so that we didn't dare even give voice to the concerns in this forum.
But with the number of hits Halladay has given up lately (even the bloops and bleeders that victimized Roy last night), we thought we'd go back and revisit those numbers. And while we're not sure that they necessarily indicate that anything is wrong, they did make us raise an eyebrow.
In the month of July, Halladay began going to the cutter well a little more often, throwing them 47% of the time. But for the month of August, Doc has scaled way back on the pitch, throwing it 34.5% of the time, while relying more on his fastball (39.7%).
We're not sure if there is a reason why he's backed off of the cutter as the season has gone on, but we hope like hell that it has nothing to do with any discomfort that he might be feeling in throwing it. Because there's a whole other level of misery that lies just beyond the horizon if that is the case.