We like to look for tell-tale signs of why a pitcher is in decline, why he goes from one-hitting a team on Wednesday to allowing 1,200 feet of home runs the following Tuesday. Some of Tuesday night's narratives were:
- It's the first time the new Halladay pitched to Carlos Ruiz.
- He used his cutter too much.
- His velocity was down.
Really, though, it was just straight-up piss-poor command. Halladay missed in the middle of the plate 20 times, and that's a conservative count based on this chart.
All three of the two-run homers he allowed were directly in the middle of the plate, just low enough to connect with the sweet spot of the bat. Against the Pirates, he didn't throw a single pitch in the heart of the plate, and even when he missed low-middle, it was just enough inside or outside to miss the sweet spot.
Halladay's decline has been precipitous. He has the highest ERA in the National League over the last calendar year, at 5.59. He also has the NL's highest HR/FB rate over that same span, at 17.8%. That's more than double his previous home run-flyball rate with the Phillies.
Halladay failed to record an out in the fourth inning for the third time this season. He did that just three times in his first 90 starts as a Phillie.
Yes, Doc got back to his now mediocre cutter last night, but that wasn't the root of the problem, that was a reaction to the problem. Halladay couldn't throw consistent strikes with his sinker or changeup and it made little sense to get curveball-happy, as the success with that pitch is derived from its sparing use.
This is just where we are with Halladay, and it's long past time to accept it. He's not even a 4.50 ERA pitcher anymore. He's a guy who might one-hit an opponent or lose a game in the first inning. He's not an in-betweener. He's a volatile fourth or fifth starter. So strange to say.
Lee returns to Cleveland
On Wednesday, Cliff Lee pitches against the Indians for the very first time. He went 83-48 with a 4.01 ERA in Cleveland, where he won the 2008 AL Cy Young award. Lee was 22-3 with a 2.54 ERA that year.
It is only the second time Lee will face a team that traded him. He faced the Mariners at Safeco Field a few months after Seattle traded him in 2010.
The Phillies need a strong performance from Lee tonight. This is a must-win week, with easy games against a struggling Indians squad and then the worst team in baseball. The Phils can't afford to be swept after sweeping their first series of the season, not if they want to gain some semblance of momentum.
On-base machine Delmon Young (.750 OBP!!!) will be in right field tonight.