One thing Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston and his coaching staff keep a close eye on is how they use their ace, Doc Halladay. Take a look at the Major League leaderboard right now, and you’ll find Halladay atop the world in innings with 82, and that number will rise tonight.
Gaston and the Jays don’t always look at the innings total, though. With Halladay, that can be deceiving.
“You have to go with pitches instead of the innings, because he does throw a lot less pitches,” Gaston said. “Doc, when he’s on, he’s got great control and that’s about 95 percent of the time he goes out there. You go by pitches.”
Entering tonight, Halladay leads the game in innings, but he also is first in the American League with just 14.3 pitches per inning and eighth in the game with 1,171 pitches thrown. There are three pitchers with over 1,200 pitches (C.C. Sabathia, Kevin Millwood and Chad Billingsley) and each are at least four innings behind Doc.
That’s the way Doc works: pitch to contact, induce ground balls, only go for the strikeout when the situation dictates it.
Take a look at the 10 starters with the most pitches thrown last season and their P/IP average and see how Halladay stacks up: Sabathia (3,814; 15.1), Tim Lincecum (3,682; 16.2), A.J. Burnett (3,650; 16.5), Matt Cain (3,607; 16.6), Johan Santana (3,598; 15.4), Halladay (3,559; 14.5), Gil Meche (3,555; 16.9), Justin Verlander (3,528; 17.6), Bronson Arroyo (3,436; 17.2) and Ervin Santana (3,429; 15.7).
Among that group, only Sabathia (253) had more innings and complete games (10) than Halladay (246; 9), but Halladay was first among the 10 with a 5.28 strikeout-to-walk ratio and his 394 groundouts led the American League. He also finished fifth overall with 206 strikeouts, despite throwing fewer pitches.
This season, Gaston has kept Halladay on the hill for 100+ pitches in nine of his 11 starts. Doc has topped out at 119 (4/26 @ CWS) and his fewest was 95 (5/22 @ ATL). Halladay has also logged at least seven innings in each of his outings so far, averaging just 3.60 pitches per plate appearance.
“If Doc can get us through eight innings, or seven innings, with 110-115 pitches, that’s great for him,” Gaston said. “If he feels like he can go another inning, most of the time I’m going to let him go another inning. Sometimes I won’t, but most of the time if he feels strong about it then you let him go. Let him at it.”
That being said, Gaston also keeps in mind that later in the season, if the Jays are still in the running for a playoff spot, he might want to have Halladay healthy and ready to go on short rest. Toronto did that with him last season. What Gaston doesn’t want to ever do is put Halladay at risk of injury, though.
“You certainly have to tkeep an eye on him,” Gaston said. “I know Doc’s a free agent after next year. Whether he decides to stay here or leave, he’s one guy you’d like to stay here healthy or leave here healthy, because he deserves to be that way with what he’s done for this organization.”
1. Chone Figgins, 3B
2. Bobby Abreu, RF
3. Vlad Guerrero, DH
4. Torii Hunter, CF
5. Kendry Morales, 1B
6. Maicer Izturis, SS
7. Mike Napoli, C
8. Gary Matthews Jr., LF
9. Howie Kendrick, 2B
Starter: LHP Joe Saunders (6-3)
1. Marco Scutaro, SS
2. Aaron Hill, 2B
3. Alex Rios, RF
4. Vernon Wells, CF
5. Adam Lind, DH
6. Scott Rolen, 3B
7. Kevin Millar, 1B
8. Rod Barajas, C
9. Jose Bautista, LF
Starter: RHP Doc Halladay (8-1)
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