Guidry, from Lafayette, La., was known as Louisiana Lightning because of his plus fastball. But that nickname did him a bit of a disservice because Guidry was an elegant lefty whose best pitcher was probably his slider, a pitch he learned from Sparky Lyle. He also added a changeup and a curve because he didn’t see the point in adding velocity to his fastball.
In a Sports Illustrated story from January of 1979, a couple of months after Guidry’s epic 1978 season where he went 25-3 with a 1.74 ERA, nine shutouts, 16 complete games, 248 strikeouts and 72 walks in 274 innings, Guidry explained why he was happy throwing his fastball 90-mph when he could easily throw it 94.
"Ninety miles an hour is usually as fast as I like to throw," Guidry told SI. "That's fast enough. You don't have to overpower hitters all the time. I could throw 93 or 94 miles an hour with good control for nine innings, but if a batter can hit a fastball at 90 miles an hour, he can hit one at 94 miles an hour. I'm not afraid to challenge any hitter, but I figure a good hitter is going to get to you once in a while anyhow."
There are no Fx ratios for Guidry, which is a shame, because it would be fascinating to see his repertoire from 1986 through his last season in 1988. After going 22-6 with a 3.27 ERA in 259 innings, Guidry made just 57 starts over his final three seasons with just 56 innings in 12 outings at age 37 in ’88.
After that, Louisiana Lightning was finished. In 1989 he made seven starts in Triple A, but enough was enough.
Who knows how long Guidry would have continued to pitch if training and medical methods in the late 1980s were like they are today. As Jamie Moyer said a few years ago, sometimes a player gets injured and the desire to keep going is wounded too.
Nevertheless, where the comparison between Halladay and Guidry is downright uncanny is at the age 35 season of their careers. After going 19-6 with a 2.35 ERA and eight complete games in 234 innings, Halladay has struggled. Obviously, a lot of that has to do with his injury and it’s quite unfair to judge Halladay on his last three starts since he had surgery on his shoulder just a couple of months ago.
No one will be able to tell how much Halladay has left until next March or April.
Perhaps the transition has already begun for Halladay. According to the pitch Fx numbers on Fan Graphs, the velocity on Halladay’s pitches isn’t too drastically off except for with one pitch … his cutter.
For most of his career, Halladay threw his cutter around 91-mph. It was 88-mph in 2012 and 87-mph this year. As a result, Halladay is throwing the cutter a lot less. In 2011, Halladay threw his cutter just about 45 percent of the time. These days he throws it just 27 percent of the time.
Instead, Halladay is throwing a lot more two-seamers and curves. He explained after Wednesday’s game against Washington that the tiny drop in velocity has the opposition sitting on his fastball.
“They can feast if you get behind in the count and throw a lot of fastballs. When I got behind in counts I didn’t want to give away hits, so we went soft.”
Again, the best gauge for Halladay will be when he finally gets a chance to fully recover from his surgery. There’s a lot of time to go until that happens.
Meanwhile, it’s interesting to remember what former Royals and Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog had to say about Guidry:
"He’s not god, but he’s close."
Sounds like the same things we said about Halladay not too long ago.