Dear Doc Halladay,
Today you signed with the Toronto Blue Jays and then announced your retirement as a member of the organization that selected you in the first round of the 1995 draft out of high school (the same year I graduated from high school). As a baseball fan, I want to thank you for allowing me the privilege of watching you pitch. There is an unfortunate group of baseball fans that will only remember your final couple injury-plagued seasons in Philadelphia, having not seen the consistent and dominant years you struck fear into opposing teams in the AL East.
While you would go on to be one of the most dominant and consistent pitchers of your era, your career almost didn’t get off the ground. In 2001 you were struggling so much in the spring that the Blue Jays sent you to Single A to basically start over. Prior to the demotion you had showed signs of being a good MLB pitcher, but after your return to the majors you had truly matured into the defining ace that you would remain for nearly another decade.
In 2002, you would win 19 games while posting an ERA of 2.93. Remember, this was an era of baseball offense. We were just 4 years removed from the summer of chasing Roger Maris’ storied 61 homers. The following season, 2003, you won your first Cy Young Award (one of only 5 pitchers to win the award in both leagues). While the 2004 and 2005 seasons were impacted by injuries (shoulder and a broken leg in 2005), you came back with a vengeance in 2006. Over the next 4 seasons, you would dominate the AL East with 16+ wins, 220+ innings and 31+ starts.
During the 2009 offseason, you were traded from Toronto to Philadelphia in a deal that included catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud being shipped off to the Jays. The change of scenery simply turned up your dominance. You went 21-10 (your 3rd 20-win season), while winning your second Cy Young Award. You also tossed a perfect game on May 20 against the Florida Marlins. But the postseason was even sweeter. In your 13th MLB season you finally got a chance to toe the rubber in September. Facing the Cincinnati Reds in the NLDS, all that separated you from a post-season perfect game was a 5th inning walk to Jay Bruce. You went on to retire the other 27 hitters, pitching a no-hitter in your first post-season appearance.
Hall of Fame voters may not think that your overall career numbers jump off the page as first ballot Hall of Fame numbers (203 wins, 2,117 strikeouts), but make no mistake about it, you pitched a Hall of Fame career. Between 2006 and 2011, you pitched 46 complete games. Your 67 career complete games rank you 627th all-time, but remember, the use of relief pitchers and specialization is a relatively new phenomenon. (A few other pitchers of note: Curt Schilling had 83 complete games, Roger Clemens had 118, Nolan Ryan 222) With your retirement, CC Sabathia becomes the new active leader with 37 complete games. At his current pace, Sabathia would have to pitch another 12 years to approach your 67 complete games. While taking the mound every fifth game in the offensively loaded AL East, you consistently posted ERA’s under 3.50 (including 4 seasons under 3). Against the Red Sox and Yankees, you compiled a 13-5 record, with an ERA of 2.59(!) and a 0.99 WHIP.
Just one final number to consider: 12.72. This is the average number of pitches you threw per inning over your career. That translates to just over 114 pitches for a complete game. Consider Matt Harvey (15.46) or Clayton Kershaw (15.80), 2 of the most dominating pitchers in the National League in 2013, threw nearly 3 more pitches per inning than Halladay. Facing the most feared hitters you were not afraid to throw strikes.
Thank you for 16 years of consistency, 16 years of dominance and 16 years of taking the ball every 5th day and pitching as if you had to finish what you started.
Peter at The Fantasy Assembly (on behalf of fantasy baseball owners everywhere)