Going the distance: Halladay a rare creature
Righty's desire to finish job sets him apart, puts him in books
PHILADELPHIA -- The accomplishment is a rarity these days, but Roy Halladay expects it every time he pitches.
He prepares for it.
He threw the 60th complete game of his career Saturday in a 2-1 victory over the Mets at Citizens Bank Park. It was his 55th complete game since 2003. If that sounds like a lot, it is. It's more than 24 teams have thrown in that same time span. Only the Toronto Blue Jays (77), Cleveland Indians (66), Oakland A's (59), Chicago White Sox (57), St. Louis Cardinals (55) and Phillies (56) can match him.
Of course, the Blue Jays lead the list because Halladay pitched with them through 2009. And the Phillies are up to 56, because Halladay has thrown 11 complete games since he joined them last season.
Individual pitchers don't even come close. CC Sabathia has thrown 28 complete games since the start of the 2003 season. Livan Hernandez has thrown 26 and Cliff Lee has thrown 21.
No other pitcher in baseball has thrown more than 18.
"I would compare him to a boxer," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said of Halladay. "He's going 12 rounds, but he trains for 25. He's always got something in the tank."
Halladay threw 130 pitches in his previous start on April 24 against the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park, but it hardly affected him Saturday. He opened the game with 18 consecutive strikes. He did not throw his first ball until the third inning.
Going the distance
"Everybody makes a big deal out of it," Halladay said of pitch counts. "But 115 to 130 are an extra 15 pitches. When you're talking about throwing -- bullpen, long toss and in between innings -- you're throwing 350 balls a day. An extra 15, if you're prepared, shouldn't affect it."
Halladay ranks 11th in baseball with 25,182 pitches thrown from 2003-11, but ranks fourth in innings pitched (1,768). Of the 234 pitchers that have thrown at least 7,470 pitches since '02, Halladay ranks 220th in percentage of pitches taken. That means he is around the strike zone a lot, and hitters are swinging.
And that means shorter at-bats and less wear on the arm.
Halladay threw just 107 pitches Saturday.
If there are a number of pitches that should sound sirens in his head, Halladay is unaware of it. He just knows when he throws 130 pitches, like he did April 24, he cuts back his workload before his next start.
That logic has served him well.
"That's where a lot of guys don't look at that," he said. "They get stuck on throwing the same amount of pitches in the bullpen and long tossing, and that's where it catches up with you. If you're smart about it, those in-between days are when you take care of yourself. It's really body awareness more than anything. Sometimes it's not just the number of pitches, but how you feel physically.
"It never seems to be a number [of pitches]. I think sometimes you throw right at 100 pitches, and you do it through six innings with guys on base. It's a different toll than if you throw 110 basically stress-free. It's hard to really judge it based on the amount of pitches. Really, you just have to know how you normally feel and go on that. It makes a big difference if you're really grinding and you throw less innings. Sometimes that's tougher."
Finish what you started
"It's his work ethic," Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard said. "You know about Spring Training. He's at the ballpark at like 4:45 in the morning. He comes in, he does his routine every single day. He doesn't miss a day. On game days when he's pitching he has a game plan, he goes out and he executes it."
Talent and hard work have made Halladay arguably the best pitcher in baseball. They have made him a throwback to a long-gone era, although he is not going to break any Phillies records for complete games. Robin Roberts holds the franchise record, with 272. But even that impressive total is nowhere near Cy Young's all-time record for CGs, which is 749.
But it certainly says something that Halladay has pitched with the Phillies for a little more than one season and already has thrown 11. There are 334 pitchers in Phillies history that have thrown at least one complete game in the modern era.
Halladay's 11 place him 125th on the list. He threw nine last year. If he throws 45 over the life of his contract, which includes a 2014 club option, he will rank 31st.
"I never heard of a pitch count until I got into Minor League baseball," said Halladay, who is often asked how he does what no other pitcher can do. "It's obviously becoming a bigger part of the game, and a more talked about part of the game, but coming up, you never heard about how many pitches Nolan [Ryan] had in the seventh inning. It's something that has evolved and changed.
"I think really you just have to know yourself. Obviously, you throw 130, and people are going to question it. In this day and age, you don't expect anything different. But as long as you know yourself and you're not putting yourself at risk and you're smart about what you're doing, that's what's important."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.