Sadly, baseball lost another legend entirely too soon with the news that former pitcher Roy Halladay died Tuesday at the age of 40 in a single-engine airplane crash over the Gulf of Mexico. He is not due for consideration for the Baseball Hall of Famer until 2019 but his untimely passing is a melancholy opportunity to remember what a talented force he was during his 16-year big league career.
Make no mistake about it, regardless of his sudden death the right-handed Halladay should have always been a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer when he becomes eligible. His 203-105 record and 3.38 ERA are impressive but may not blow stat-counting voters away. However, he did more than enough.
For a decade (2002-2011) he was the best pitcher in baseball, going 170-75 with a 2.97 ERA. He won two Cy Young Awards during that time and finished in the top five in voting an impressive additional five times. He was also perhaps the last of the workhorse pitchers, tossing 67 regular season complete games and 20 shutouts during his career. For comparison sake, Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer have combined for 33 complete games and 19 shutouts during their respective careers (spanning a total of 20 seasons).
Part of what makes Halladay’s resume so impressive was that he originally came up with the Toronto Blue Jays in the late 1990s as a top pitching prospect but ultimately had to rebuild himself. He posted promising results his first two years but a ludicrous 10.64 ERA in 67.2 innings in 2000 led to his demotion to the low minors where he rebuilt himself as a sinker/cutter pitcher. He was up the next year and never looked back.
The crowning achievement of Halladay’s career was his 2010 no-hitter game in the National League Divisional Series, when his Philadelphia Phillies beat the Cincinnati Reds. This was just the second no-hitter in major league postseason history. He also had a perfect game earlier that season (against the Florida Marlins).
The perpetually bestubbled hurler was a throwback a breed of pitcher that simply doesn’t exist today. His appearance, demeanor and stuff was eerily reminiscent of pitchers from decades prior. He was a threat to go the distance in any given game and exceeded 200 innings eight times during his career. In a cruel irony, nagging arm injuries curtailed his career and led to his retirement following the 2013 season at the age of just 36.
Adding an ERA+ of 131 and a WAR of 65.6 to Halladay’s decade of excellence make him a surefire candidate to be inducted in Cooperstown in the coming years. Baseball fans should not look back in reflection and give him any undue credit; his untimely death simply means an appreciative retrospective is due all too soon.
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