On Monday, the 2019 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot was announced, and a familiar name was added.
After his untimely death at the too-young age of 40 last year, the Blue Jays took swift action, making the decision to honour Roy Halladay with a spot on the Level of Excellence as well as sending his number to the rafters, never to be worn again. Although the timing of the tributes were because of his death, both of those things were going to happen either way at some point down the line. And of course, there was talk of Halladay going into the Hall posthumously during his first year of eligibility.
Roy Halladay should still be a first ballot Hall of Famer even if he was here today.
Once you get in, the walls of Cooperstown don’t discriminate; whether you’re a near-unanimous selection like Ken Griffey Jr. was in 2016, or if you squeaked in during your last year of eligibility like Tim Raines did in 2017, you’re there forever. But when you look at the players that have gotten in their first year during this decade – Thomas, Glavine, Maddux, Smoltz, Martinez, Johnson, Griffey, Rodriguez, Thome, and Jones – there’s no question that the name Roy Halladay deserves to stand beside them.
Let me explain.
Halladay was a first round pick by the Blue Jays out of high school in 1995. It took him three years to get to the Major League level where, in his second career start, baseball fans got a sign of things to come. In a late September 1998 game against the Tigers, Doc was cruising. He went into the ninth inning without allowing a hit or a walk, striking out eight in the process. Until that point, his only blemish was a Felipe Crespo error at second that allowed Tony Clark to reach base to open the fifth. And with two outs in that ninth inning, pinch hitter Bobby Higginson finally got to him and hit a solo shot to break up the no-hitter.
He got the next hitter, Frank Catalanotto by the way, to softly line out, putting a cap on the first of many complete games for the right hander. Over the next ten years, we would sit back in awe at how methodical his preparation was and how seamlessly it translated into success on the mound.
Pitchers have their calling cards; some will blow you away with power, some will induce weak contact throughout an entire start, some might even be good in short spurts, and out of the game by the seventh inning. Roy Halladay’s calling card was the complete game, which is crazy because you need to be good at every facet of the game, pitching well enough to stay in, but economical enough so that your arm doesn’t fall off in the later innings. In other words, throughout the peak of his career, Halladay was the best at consistently being the best.
But it wasn’t always like that; Halladay spent time pitching out of both the rotation and bullpen in 1999, then found himself all the way back in single-A after a horrific start to his 2000 season Even now when glossing through his career numbers, that 10.64 earned run average stands out with everything else from that year. But that one year that turned out to be a complete write-off gave us the pitcher we know today, and one that will be going to the Hall of Fame at some point.
In the 11 seasons between the start of 2001 and the end of 2011, Halladay was among the game’s elite. Out of 44 starters that logged at least 1500 innings throughout those years, Halladay ranks near or at the top in virtually every major category.
I want you to understand that this isn’t cherry picking. 11 years is a long time in Major League Baseball, and the stats I chose are indicative of an individual effort instead of a team’s. Halladay was so good during this 11-year peak that you’d be hard pressed to find anybody justifiably better. What makes this even more impressive is the division he played in. From 2001 up until Halladay’s last year in Toronto in 2009, the American League’s representative in the World Series came from the AL East six times while the mediocre Blue Jays were continually left out in the cold.
In fact, if you look at pitchers from this whole millennium (2000-2018), Halladay still leads the way with 65 complete games thrown, 26 more than Livan Hernandez in second place. While the CG hasn’t died just yet, Halladay perfected it when pitcher’s outings were becoming shorter and shorter. For those wondering, Clayton Kershaw sits 40 back at 25 complete games.
What’s even more impressive is that there are just five instances of ten inning complete games in that span, and Doc has two of them, both with Toronto in 2003 and 2007.
If you look at the Baseball Reference 2019 Hall of Fame page, they have a WAR7 column, which calculates a player’s wins above replacement for their best seven seasons. Roy Halladay sits third behind Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, and in front of 2010 human political meme Curt Schilling. The former both have steroid accusations clouding their case while the latter is…Curt Schilling. There is a considerable drop off between the first two and Doc, but I don’t think anybody disagrees that Bonds and Clemens have HOF numbers, asterisks or not.
Roy Halladay has two Cy Young Awards, a no hitter, a perfect game, and numerous all star nods. He exemplified the way a pitcher should prepare and execute, and he was at the top of the league for an entire 11-year run. Unfortunately, he ran into shoulder problems and had his career cut short, but that doesn’t change the fact that he was still one of the best pitchers of the era. In order to go in, a player needs 75% of votes and it’s just a matter of time when he’ll get it.
He will get the call and become immortalized, but let’s just hope the Baseball Writers’ Association of America don’t keep us waiting too long.