Phillies

What Jake Arrieta is doing even better than in Cy Young season

What Jake Arrieta is doing even better than in Cy Young season

Jake Arrieta makes his seventh start tonight for the Phillies in their series-opener against the fading Mets, a team he didn't face when the Phils were at Citi Field in early-April.

He'll enter the night 3-1 with a 3.15 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and .207 opponents' batting average, all ace-like numbers that any team would love to have atop a rotation.

The biggest questions outsiders had about Arrieta entering 2017 were his fastball velocity and ability to miss bats. They were fair questions coming off a season in which he averaged a career-low 92.1 mph and had his lowest swinging strike rate since coming to the NL.

This season, the fastball/sinker velocity has been slightly up (92.5), but he's generated even fewer whiffs. There's more to this conversation, though.

Arrieta has a sky-high groundball rate of 60.4 percent to lead the National League. It is exactly 17 percent higher than the league average, and it's even four percent higher than Arrieta's rate in 2015 when he won the Cy Young award.

Thus, it's not surprising to see Arrieta also top another leaderboard — just 17.7 percent of the balls in play against him have been classified as "hard contact." It is by far the lowest rate in all of Major League Baseball, with Aaron Nola next at 22.5 percent.

Last weekend in D.C., Arrieta matched Max Scherzer in a game in which Scherzer struck out 15. Arrieta allowed just a run on two hits in an incredibly efficient afternoon, exiting only because the Phillies needed to pinch-hit for him in a close game.

After the game, I asked Arrieta whether he'd prefer to strike out 15 like Scherzer or get through six innings on 75 pitches the way he did himself. He chose the latter.

"I don't care about strikeouts," he said. "I'm trying to get the guy out on the first pitch."

Obviously, if you induce a groundout on the first pitch, that's an at-bat which won't help your swinging strike rate. Arrieta is A-OK with that.

This season, Arrieta has gotten nearly one-fourth of his outs in the first two pitches of an at-bat. It's a major reason he's averaging 15 pitches per inning. In that category, Arrieta ranks eighth in the NL, right behind Jacob deGrom and Stephen Strasburg and just ahead of Zack Greinke. (It's no surprise that Nola ranks second.)

Arrieta is not going to wake up next week or next month averaging 95 mph with his sinker like he did at his peak, but it's pretty clear that over the years he's learned how to pitch without his fastest fastball. That bodes well moving forward for a pitcher the Phillies will pay $45 million in his age-33 and 34 seasons.

Which team will Roy Halladay represent in the Hall of Fame? The decision was easy for his family

Which team will Roy Halladay represent in the Hall of Fame? The decision was easy for his family

NEW YORK — Roy Halladay was drafted and developed by the Toronto Blue Jays. He spent 12 of his 16 big-league seasons with the Jays and earned 148 of his 203 victories with that club.

It would be completely understandable — even in Philadelphia, where Halladay spent four memorable seasons — if he were to go into the baseball Hall of Fame with a Blue Jays cap perched atop his head on the bronze plaque that will hang forever on the hallowed walls of Cooperstown.

But Halladay’s cap will carry no logo at all.

“I know we spent the majority of our time in Toronto,” Halladay’s widow, Brandy, said at Wednesday’s official Hall of Fame news conference. “Toronto gave us that chance, that base, that start. But Philly also gave us a chance to win a ring and the passion that we wanted. There’s no way to choose and so we’ve decided that he’ll go in with no team.”

Brandy Halladay was joined by the couple’s two teenage sons, Braden and Ryan, at the Manhattan news conference. The three of them had flown to New York on Wednesday morning. They were initially supposed to take a sunrise commercial flight out of Tampa. Phillies managing partner John Middleton caught wind of the family’s travel plans, surmised that it would be too stressful on them, and sent his private jet to the Tampa area to deliver them to New York.

Roy Halladay was elected to the Hall of Fame on Tuesday, in his first year of eligibility. The honor comes less than 15 months after he was killed when the small plane he was piloting crashed off the west coast of Florida in November 2017. Halladay will be officially enshrined into Cooperstown on July 21, along with closer extraordinaire Mariano Rivera, another first-ballot selection. Designated hitter Edgar Martinez and pitcher Mike Mussina were also elected Tuesday and outfielder Harold Baines and pitcher Lee Smith were elected by a special committee in December.

Mussina split his career between the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees. He said Wednesday that he was undecided which team’s cap would adorn his Hall of Fame plaque.

The Halladay family had no indecision.

“It was a quick decision,” Brandy said. “The Hall walks you through this. They say, ‘Don’t feel rushed,’ but I kind of already knew how I felt.

“We think that this is the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. It’s not the Phillies’ Hall of Fame or the Blue Jays’ Hall of Fame. Roy is going in as a Major League Baseball player and I think that is important because that’s what he is.

“I would hope that he represents something to all of baseball, not just to Phillies or Blue Jays fans, but to baseball as a whole and I think that is how he should be represented.”

Halladay spent just four seasons in a Phillies uniform and though he never got that ring, he had some incredible highs with the club. He pitched a perfect game and made it to the postseason for the first time in his career. He pitched a no-hitter in the playoffs. He won the National League Cy Young award as a Phillie in 2010 and finished second in the voting in 2011. He had won the American League Cy Young Award with the Jays in 2003. He is on the Phillies’ Wall of Fame and the Jays’ Level of Excellence.

Though the family professed its love and gratitude to both cities, going into the Hall with no direct team affiliation could be translated by some as a sign of respect for Halladay’s time and accomplishments in Philadelphia. After all, he spent just a quarter of his career with the Phillies.

“It was an amazing opportunity,” Brandy Halladay said of her family’s time in Philadelphia. “It’s the most loving, passionate, insane city. It was everything we hoped to have a chance to be part of.”

Several players have gone into the Hall of Fame without a team logo on their cap. Catfish Hunter, who split his career between the Oakland A’s and Yankees, has a blank cap. Recently, Greg Maddux could not pick between the Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves and went in with a blank cap. Ditto for manager Tony La Russa, who skippered World Series winners in Oakland and St. Louis. Though the Hall of Fame technically has final say on which cap a player wears on his plague, it usually works with the player and defers to his wishes.

In this case, the Hall of Fame will defer to the Halladay family’s wish. Out of respect for his two baseball homes, Roy Halladay’s cap will be blank.

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Roy Halladay is a Hall of Famer — Brandy Halladay, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and more react

Roy Halladay is a Hall of Famer — Brandy Halladay, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and more react

Roy Halladay is everything the Baseball Hall of Fame is about. 

Tuesday was a bittersweet night for everyone fortunate enough to cross paths with Doc or admire him from afar. Good luck finding anyone — a teammate, a rival, a writer, a fan, an exec — who would dream of saying a bad word about him.

Halladay leaves behind an uncommon legacy. As the words you'll read below further illustrate.

Brandy Halladay

"Being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame is every boy's dream. To stand on that stage in Cooperstown and deliver your acceptance speech in front of baseball's most enthusiastic fans is something that every baseball player aspires to achieve, and Roy was no exception. But that was not Roy's goal. It was not his goal to have those three letters after his signature. His goal was to be successful every single day of his 16-year career.  

Tonight's announcement is the end result of that effort. If only Roy were here to personally express his gratitude for this honor, what an even more amazing day this would be. I would like to extend special thanks to the baseball writers for the overwhelming percentage of votes that Roy received in his first year on the ballot. It means so much to me, Braden and Ryan."

Jimmy Rollins

"Congratulations to Roy and the Halladay family on Roy's induction into baseball's Hall of Fame, a place you knew he was destined for if you ever had the opportunity to witness his dominance! The days Doc would take the ball you knew you had to be your very best because there was zero doubt in anyone's mind that you would receive anything less from him!  

When Roy decided to come to Philadelphia, it was for one reason, to win a championship, and we wanted nothing more than to share in that moment of glory with him. Although we never accomplished that with him, it doesn't take away from all that he was able to accomplish during his career. 

Anyone that has ever heard the name Roy Halladay wishes he were here for us all to celebrate this moment of greatness and give thanks for the many memories he gave us on the playing field but even more importantly the ones we all got to create when he took off his Superman cape, gave that big ol' cheesy smile and made you feel like you had known him all your life! Congrats Doc, you are forever enshrined in baseball greatness!!"
                                      
Chase Utley

"One of the great pleasures of my career was being able to play behind a man like Roy Halladay. He was fierce. He was competitive. He was focused. But, most of all, he was great. Not just a great player but also a great teammate and a great friend. On the field, Roy wanted nothing more than to bring another championship to Philadelphia. Off the field, he wanted nothing more than to be the best husband and father he could be. He was someone I admired then and still do today. Jen and I send not just our congratulations to Brandy, Braden and Ryan, but also our thanks for sharing Roy with us and the city of Philadelphia."

Charlie Manuel

"People like to throw the word 'ace' around a lot, but Roy Halladay was a true 'ace.' In his time with the Phillies, he completed more games than anyone else in baseball, because his mindset was to pitch at least 9.0 innings. He was one of the most prepared guys I've ever been around and put more work into preparing for his next start than anyone I'd ever seen. Roy had great control with a tremendous arsenal of pitches and even if he didn't have his best stuff on a particular day, he'd still find a way for his team to win.  

He was an unquestioned leader on our team because with Roy it was never about him, but always about the people around him.  We all miss Roy every day and I'm so thankful to have called him a friend.  Congratulations to his whole family, especially Brandy, Braden and Ryan, on an honor that is very well deserved."

John Middleton

"Roy Halladay made an indelible, unforgettable mark on Phillies history during his time with us. From his perfect game to his postseason no-hitter to his Cy Young Award, his accomplishments in red pinstripes are nothing short of legendary, and his placement in the Hall of Fame is well deserved. Even more impressive was the way Roy carried himself off the field, always giving back not just to his teammates, but more so to his community, whether it was here in Philadelphia or in the Pinellas County area.  

For all he accomplished as a player and everything he stood for as a person, Doc will forever remain in the hearts of Phillies fans everywhere. My heartfelt congratulations go out Brandy, Braden and Ryan."

Mike Schmidt

"Roy was such a great family man and teammate, beloved by Phillies fans.  His teammates watched him train and I believe that pushed them to be better. He studied the game, its mechanics and mental side and was always willing to share his wealth of knowledge with anyone interested.  Roy was indeed a 'man for all seasons.' After retiring, he established an office at the minor league complex to mentor young Phillies, which was his secret love.  

I could go on and on, but I'll end by thanking the baseball writers who recognized Roy Halladay as a first-ballot member.  His family, friends and teammates only wish he could be here."

Cole Hamels

"I consider myself very fortunate to have played alongside Roy. He defined work ethic and how to prepare yourself to win. He wasn't about the spotlight and never wanted to take credit away from his teammates.  He now finally gets the credit he deserves. He completely reinvented himself in order to succeed at the major league level and in a game of failure he didn't lose much. If you did beat him, he would make sure you never did again.  

There's a part of him that I take with me every time I prepare for my games and step out onto that mound.  I congratulate Brandy, Braden and Ryan on Roy Halladay's election to the Baseball Hall of Fame. He had such an amazing impact on so many baseball players and future stars."

Kyle Kendrick

"Roy's numbers speak for themselves, but for me it was his work ethic in between starts and the way he treated and respected the game. I know Roy is smiling down on Brandy and the boys today."

Brad Lidge

"Roy was the ultimate competitor and workhorse. He (along with Chase) defined what it meant to be the first to show up and the last to leave. His work ethic was only topped by how brilliant his command was and how nasty his pitches were.  He went through the best hitters like a hot knife through butter and did it with ideal efficiency. He rose up on the biggest occasions of his career and he always gave you every ounce of energy he had."

Jayson Werth

"A well-deserved honor for the fiercest competitor I ever had the honor to take the field with. Roy is deeply missed but remembered forever."