I've gotten mad about these games before.
I've gotten mad about games where the pitching and defense show up and the offense just hangs around trying not to be noticed like a quiet kid at a middle school dance. Games where the Mariners fall behind by one or two runs and fold up the tent because everybody knows they won't be able to claw their way back. Games where you can watch the first inning and declare with absolute certainty that they won't be staging any long rallies or stirring comebacks. Games like that one against Colorado two years ago. These kinds of games have led to a long history of damaged sensibilities and alienated friends, because there's nothing more frustrating than watching a lineup that seems to the eye to be going through the motions.
But with the team in last place and there being zero pressure to succeed, I haven't had occasion to be so upset when things go wrong. Instead, I've found myself better able to appreciate the opponent, and our opponent tonight was perhaps more deserving of appreciation than any other we've faced all year long.
Roy Halladay. He doesn't have the spotlight of Josh Beckett or the sexiness of Felix or Harden on top of their games, but if there's another pitcher in baseball who's just so much fun to watch go to work every five days, I'd love to hear who. There's no frustration with Halladay. There's no line of thinking that "if only he could make this one little change he'd be awesome". There's not really any criticism because there's nothing to criticize - Roy Halladay is a smart, talented, and consistent starting pitcher who, every five days, comes out and pitches at his peak. He'll lose a game from time to time, but it's not because he made a mistake; it's because the other team just happened to hit his pitches, and shit happens, and he'll go right back out and throw the same pitches a few days later.
Roy Halladay doesn't face hitters. Hitters face Roy Halladay, and when you hit against Roy Halladay, you have to play by his rules. The only say you have in the matter is whether to bother swinging or to simply walk back to the dugout and spare yourself the humiliation. With Halladay in control, it's essentially like playing the slots - you just hope to get lucky once or twice, because at the end of the day, you're likely to be in the red. There's no other way around it. This is a pitcher who has mastered his craft, a pitcher for whom nearly every single offering is thrown by design. And that can be incredibly intimidating.
Roy Halladay is always on the offensive. He's a one-man army moving the front, and while opponents try to do what they can to slow him down, he seldom breaks stride. Tonight Roy Halladay tied Cleveland for the Major League lead in complete games. He's thrown more complete games than Florida, Houston, Cincinnati, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, New York, Chicago, Colorado, Washington, and Detroit combined. And over those six complete games he's averaged just 111 pitches. For the sake of comparison, the Angels threw 124 pitches in an eight-inning no-hitter last weekend. Halladay is not only extraordinarily talented, but he's also extraordinarily efficient, and this is a combination that makes him quite possibly the most valuable pitcher in the world. For seven or eight innings a day he throws strikes, misses bats, and keeps the ball on the ground, routinely allowing Toronto to stay in the game despite an offense that's barely given him a lick of support. On only one occasion all year long has Halladay come out of a game with his team behind by more than three runs. If that's not the definition of an ace, I don't know what is.
On a team that no one watches in a place that barely cares, Roy Halladay has developed into one of the most remarkably unique and successful athletes of his generation, and at just 31 years of age, there's no telling how far he can go. He certainly isn't showing any signs of slowing down, and one could make the argument that he's only going to improve as he continues his transformation into a machine with a beard. He's taken such a substantial step forward this year that who's to say when he's hit his ceiling? If Roy Halladay's career has taught me anything, it's that he's always capable of new surprises, and I just feel privileged to be able to watch somebody who's so clearly better than almost everyone else. The approximation of human perfection is a sight unlike any other on the planet.
Thanks for coming by, Roy. It's been a pleasure.
Biggest Contribution: Mark Lowe, +10.1%
Biggest Suckfest: Jeff Clement, -15.7%
Most Important AB: Clement strikeout, -10.9%
Most Important Pitch: Scutaro single, -14.8%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): +9.6%
Total Contribution by Lineup: -66.1%
Total Contribution by Opposition: +6.5%
(What is this chart?)