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Top 60 All-Time Jays: #1 Roy Halladay

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Toronto Blue Jays Photo Day Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images

Harry Leroy Halladay | SP | 1998-2009

Finally finished pushing this particular rock up to the top of the hill. I’ll likely do a few ‘just missed outs’.

Like I said yesterday, Stieb and Halladay really should be tied at the top of the list.

Roy Halladay was born May 14, 1977, in Denver, Colorado. He was drafted in the 1st round of the 1995 amateur draft by the Blue Jays out of Arvada West High School, where he played baseball and basketball. He was the 17th pick overall. Darin Erstad was the first pick that year. Other notables picked up before him were Jose Cruz, Jr., Kerry Wood, Todd Helton, and Matt Morris.

Roy rose quickly through our minor league, Rookie League in 1995, High-A in 1996, Double and Triple-A in 1997, and Triple-A again in 1998. He was called up to the Jays at the end of the 1990 season and made two starts. You likely remember he started the last game of the season against Detroit. He threw a 1-hitter. The one hit was a homer, with two out in the bottom of the ninth. We all knew we had something special.

In 1999 Roy spent the entire season with the Jays, splitting time between the starting rotation and the bullpen. He pitched in 36 games, made 18 starts, and had an 8-7 record with a 3.92 ERA. In 149.1 innings, he struck out 82, walked 79 (not the strikeout to walk ratio that we would grow to expect from Doc), gave up 156 hits, and had one complete game a shutout. It was a pretty good season for a guy just 22 years old. He also got his only career save this season.

The wheels came off for Halladay in 2000. He started the season in the rotation, but by May 15, after 8 starts, Roy was 2-4 with an 11.97 ERA. He spent the rest of the year going back and forth between the Jays and Triple-A Syracuse. He made 11 starts in Syracuse, finishing there with a 5.50 ERA. With the Jays, he ended with a 10.64 ERA and a 4-7 record. In 67.3 major league innings, he allowed 107 hits, 14 homers, 42 walks, striking out 44.

At the start of the 2001 season, Roy was sent all the way down to A-ball Dunedin to ‘rebuild his delivery’. He worked with former Jay pitching coach Mel Queen and changed from a right over the top delivery to a ¾ arm one. It gave him more movement on his pitches. Mel Queen deserves a lot of credit for helping Doc a Hall of Fame pitcher. Halladay also read the book the Mental ABC’s of Pitching, by Harvey Dorfman, given to him by his wife. Roy pitched in A, AA, and AAA that season on his way back to the majors.

Halladay made it back to Toronto in early July and made 16 starts for the team. In his first start, he set a new career-high for strikeouts in a game with 10. The new delivery made a world of difference. In 105.1 innings, Doc struck out 96, only walked 25, gave up just 3 homers for a 3.16 ERA. The promise he showed with the 1 hitter in his second major league start reappeared.

2002 was the year Roy became the pitcher we all know and love now. He finished 19-7, with a 2.93 ERA in 34 starts. He led the league in innings pitched with 239.1, struck out 168, walked 62, and only gave up 10 homers. He made the All-Star team for the first time. The game didn’t go well for him. He gave up 3 runs in his inning of work.

Doc finished the season with the 4th best ERA, 4th most wins, 2 best walks per 9 innings rate, best home run per 9 innings, and 6th most strikeouts in the AL.

In 2003 Doc won his (first) Cy Young Award, just the 3rd Jay to win the award. He was terrific, leading the league in wins with 22, starts (36), complete games (9), shut outs (2), innings pitched (266, which is the most innings pitched in a season in the 21st century), and strikeout to walk ratio (6.38). He became the second Jay to record 200 strikeouts in a season and the 3rd Jay to win 10 games both at home and on the road. He made the All-Star team, though he didn’t pitch in the game. Strangely enough, Roy didn’t start the season well, going 0-2 in his April 6 begins with a 4.89 ERA, but then won his next 11 starts in a row. On September 10, he pitched a ten-inning shutout against the Tigers.

Halladay ended up on the DL twice in 2004 with shoulder troubles. He only made 21 starts, finishing 8-8 with a 4.20 ERA. His control wasn’t near as good, 2.6 walks/9, as the year before, 1.1 walks/9.

2005 was going much better, he was 12-4 with a 2.41 ERA, and he made the All-Star team for the 3rd time and likely would have been the AL starting pitcher, but a line drive off Kevin Mench’s bat on July 8 ended his season. The ball hit him in the shin and broke his leg. Before the broken leg, he was the odds-on favorite to win the Cy Young that year.

He came back strong in 2006, going 16-5 with a 3.19 ERA in 2 starts. He made the All-Star team again and finished 3rd in the Cy Young voting. He missed a few starts with shoulder soreness at the end of the season.

In 2006, Doc signed a three-year, $40 million contract extension, keeping him under Blue Jays’ control until through the 2010 season. People complain about J.P. Riccardi for some of the contracts signed under his watch, but this has to be one of the best contracts ever. Had he gone to free agency, he would have had a much longer, bigger contract.

In 2007 he went 16-7 with a 3.71 ERA. He missed the All-Star team but finished 5th in the Cy Young voting. He led the league in complete games with 7.He missed time going onto the DL after an appendectomy in May.

In 2008 Doc won 20 games for the second time, winning number 20 in his last start of the season, a complete-game shutout of the Yankees. He and Roger Clemens are the only Jays’ pitchers to win 20 more than once. He lost just 11 games. Winning 20 games with the crappy offense we had is pretty amazing. He led the league in innings pitched with 246 and complete games with 9, though with our offense, he lost 3 of those games in 3 consecutive starts at the end of April. He stepped up his strikeout rate that year, jumping to 7.5 strikeouts per 9, likely due to relying more on his cut fastball than he had in previous years. Before this jump in strikeouts, there was some worry that his strikeout numbers dropped to the range where he couldn’t continue to be one of the elite pitchers in baseball. He came in 2nd in the Cy Young voting to Cliff Lee.

He was struck in the head with a line drive on June 20 in Pittsburgh, but he didn’t miss a start because of it.

2009 started terrifically again for Doc. He was 10-1 after 13 starts and pitched at least seven innings in each one of those starts. Then in his 14th start, he strained his groin. When he returned, he wasn’t quite the same, losing 7 of his subsequent 10 decisions. But he turned it around again in September, going 4-2 with 4 complete games. He started the All-Star game but gave up 3 runs in his 2 innings.

And, of course, he had to deal with trade rumors for July.

After the season, the trade rumors ramped up again, and on December 16, new GM Alex Anthopoulos traded Halladay to the Phillies for Travis d’Arnaud, Kyle Drabek, and Michael Taylor. Taylor was quickly flipped for Brett Wallace, who was our first baseman of the future until he was traded for Anthony Gose, center fielder of the future until he was traded for Devon Travis.

At the time, we thought the trade was ok. Drabek, many thought, was an ace in the making. But he couldn’t find the strike zone. He pitched 172 innings for the Jays with 111 walks (and 20 wild pitches).

Halladay was terrific for the Phillies, winning his second Cy Young award in 2010, and making it to the playoffs for the first time. And he threw a perfect game against the Marlins on May 29. He also pitched a game against the Blue Jays (that was to be played in Toronto, but was moved to Philadelphia due to the G20 summit). I was at that game and Roy made our Jays hitters look like minor leaguers (not that it was that hard in those days).

In his first playoff game, he threw a no-hitter against the Reds. The Phillies would lose out to the Giants in the NLCS.

He was almost equally as good in 2011, finishing second for the NL Cy Young, and helping the Phillies make to the playoffs again (this time losing out to the Cardinals in the NLDS, Roy lost game five to his friend Chris Carpenter 1-0).

2012 and 2013 didn’t go as well, as Halladay’s body started to break down.

On December 9, 2013, Roy signed a one-day contract so he could retire a Blue Jay.

Retirement seemed to be going well. He coached his son’s baseball team and worked in the Phillies organization. But we’d find out later that things weren’t as good as they looked from a distance. He had chronic pain in his neck and back.

On November 7, 2017, Halladay died, crashing in his ICON A5 aircraft. He had a number of different types of painkillers in his system. Halladay left behind his wife Brandy and two kids. Both the Blue Jays and Phillies retired his uniform. I’ll admit I was sad for several days after. I really wanted to believe that he was enjoying his retirement.

He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2018. Minor Leaguer and I went to the induction ceremony. Brandy did a terrific job giving the speech he should have.

Career, Halladay had a 203-105 record and a 3.38 ERA in 416 games, 390 starts. With the Jays his record was 148-76. He threw over 200 innings in 6 seasons with the Jays.

For many years he was the best (at times the only) reason to watch the Jays (I sometimes wonder how history would have changed if we had kept Halladay to play with Jose Bautista). He was intense. Very focused on performing his best. After his death, a lot of stories came out about how he was always first in the gym in the morning, how he would work out even when he was on holiday.

Perhaps my favorite memory was when he faced the Yankees and A.J. Burnett and won. Career Halladay was 18-7 against the Yankees, all the more reason to like him.

It was nice to hear how loved Halladay was by his teammates (and opponents too). He seemed like a great guy. It is too bad that pain from his playing days ruined his retirement. He’ll always be a favorite of mine.

Roy Halladay’s place among Jay career pitching leaders:

bWAR: 2nd, 48.4

ERA: 5th, 3.43

Wins: 2nd, 148

Win-Loss %: 2nd, .661

Walks per 9: 3rd, 2.001

Strikeouts per 9: 16th, 6.574

Innings Pitched: 3rd, 2047.2

Strikeouts: 2nd, 1495

Games Started: 3rd, 287

Complete Games: 3rd, 49

Shutouts: 2nd, 15

Strikeouts/Walk: 2nd, 3.286

Home Runs/9: 3rd 0.756

Single Season

bWAR: 3rd, 8.1 (and 8th, 7.3)

ERA: 4th, 2.41 (and 10th)

Wins: 1st, 22 (2003) (and 4th, 20, 2008 and 9th, 19, 2002)

Strikeouts: 4th, 5th, and 6th.