Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Well deserved

Much like his stature, Roy Halladay's performance on the mound in 2010 was heads and shoulders above his peers. It stood out to the point that the announcement of his selection as this year's National League Cy Young Award recipient on Tuesday seemed more like a formality than a surprise.

Honestly, if this vote went any other way, I would have been shocked. Throughout the postseason I even heard broadcasters saying repeatedly he was the likely winner.

For those few still scratching their heads, Doc led the league in these categories: wins (21), innings pitched (250 2/3), complete games (9), shutouts (4), walks per nine innings (1.1) and strikeout/walk ratio (7.88). He also posted career bests in ERA (2.44) and strikeouts (219).

It's hard to believe Halladay's perfect game at the end of May became somewhat overshadowed by several similar achievements from other hurlers, but in the so-called Year of the Pitcher, he was still the best. In fact, he became the first pitcher in 87 years to walk just 30 batters in 250 or more innings of work.

The BBWAA proved the prognosticators right, giving Halladay all 32 first-place votes for his second Cy Young. Though such a landslide was not unprecedented, the choice hasn't felt this crystal clear since the heyday of Pedro Martinez.

You can't just leave this decision to numbers, though. Halladay provided the Phillies with more intangible support. Before this season, the team built its success around its high-powered offense, but in 2010, pitching maintained the pulse. Halladay was the leader of a pitching staff that carried the Phillies through the middle two months of the season when the offense endured its longest lull in years. When nothing was going right, it was up to the veteran to ascend that hill and pitch his heart out for those 1-0 and 2-1 victories.

And this guy thrived off pressure. Consider that his overall opponents' batting average during the season was .245, but with runners in scoring position, that dropped to .173. With a guy pitching around the plate as much as Halladay does, hits are going to happen, but once guys get on base, they'll likely run back to the dugout from that same base when the inning ends. Other pitchers, even some of Halladay's closest Cy Young competition, tend to lose focus when they allow a few baserunners, but he amazingly becomes even more locked in. That's not something you can teach.

Halladay is humble almost to a fault, and he would've gladly traded in this great honor for a World Series title. While that should be the most important goal of any player in the game, Halladay may not have realized that if he didn't give the Phillies this incredible season, they probably wouldn't have made the playoffs.

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