BP: Roy Halladay-Cliff Lee connection

April, 22, 2010
Roy Halladay tossed a gem on ESPN’s Wednesday Night Baseball matchup between the Atlanta Braves and the Philadelphia Phillies, going the distance for Philadelphia without allowing a run and striking out seven and walking one. Halladay raised his record to 4-0, becoming the major league's first four-game winner in the game, and improved his ERA from 1.13 to 0.82. On the year, Doc has now logged 33 innings, surrendering 26 hits while issuing just three walks to 28 strikeouts. He has thrown just 412 pitches in those 33 innings, an average of 12.5 per inning, making him economical in addition to durable. So, yeah, he is pretty good, and is in the midst of an incredible start to his Phillies' tenure. (Check his game-by-game lines in the table.)

Pitchers moving from the American League to the National League are expected to improve their performance given that they get to face generally feeble-hitting pitchers instead of slugging designated hitters, but Halladay has done more than improve -- he's dominated thus far, tossing two complete games and a shutout to introduce himself to the weaker offensive league. The last couple of seasons have seen similarly hot starts to the season from two different pitchers that eventually went on to win the Cy Young Award.

In 2008, Cleveland Indians lefty Cliff Lee logged 31 2/3 innings in his first quartet of appearances, walking a mere two batters to go with 29 strikeouts and a 0.28 ERA. Lee finished the season with a 2.54 ERA and a 5.0 K/BB ratio en route to the end-of-season hardware. Lee also got off to a fantastic start in his own Phillies' tenure after being acquired from the Indians in a trade last July, also winning his first four games and producing, coincidentally, a 0.82 ERA identical to Halladay’s current mark.

Last season, Zack Greinke amassed 29 innings in his first four starts, walking six and whiffing 36, while allowing no earned runs on his way to succeeding Lee as the American League Cy Young winner. Fast forward to 2010 and Halladay finds himself in the same conversation of dominating starts to the season. It is still too early to tell whether or not he will achieve milestones such as 25 wins or 250 innings, but even through the small sample of four starts, it is abundantly clear that this will be a fun ride for Phillies' fans, with every fifth day becoming a Halladay holiday.

Eric Seidman is an author of Baseball Prospectus.



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