The biggest news of the first day of the 2013 MLB Winter Meetings had nothing to do with a trade. Arguably the best pitcher of the last 12 years, Roy Halladay, announced his retirement from baseball after a 16-year career. The success of Halladay has been discussed at length today, but it does not hurt to take some time and consider where Halladay fits within the history of the game.
The statistics are impressive: 203 wins, 2117 strikeouts, 3.38 ERA, 67 complete games, a perfect game, a playoff no-hitter, 8-time All-Star, and two Cy Young Awards. From 2002-2011, there was no one better. His ERA (2.97) ranks third in that span and his ERA+ (100 is average) is a crazy 148 which ranks second in those ten years. But it would be unfair to Doc if he was evaluated only in relation to his peers. When his stats are viewed from a historical perspective they are even more remarkable.
Halladay had five seasons of 200+ strikeouts and 40 or fewer walks, no other pitcher in history has more than three. Fangraphs.com has Doc’s WAR at 67.7 which ranks 34th all-time for pitchers. Halladay’s strikeout-to-walk ratio was 3.58, only Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez, Cy Young, Bret Saberhagen are better since 1901. Halladay is one of only five pitchers to win a Cy Young Award in each league.
Halladay was the epitome of a workhorse, from 2002-2011 Doc averaged 219 innings during that span and finished with 2749.1 innings pitched in his career. In an era where pitch counts are tracked incessantly and 200+ innings is far from a sure thing, Halladay set the modern-day standard for durability. His work ethic is legendary and he inspired innumerable teammates by his drive to be the best.
Yes, 203 wins is far from the standard for Hall of Fame induction, but Sandy Koufax was inducted after dominating the National League for seven seasons and finished with 165 wins. Obviously, Koufax was one of the best pitchers in baseball history and he wasn’t faulted for retiring early and Halladay pitched longer than Koufax. Short of equating Halladay with Koufax (which isn’t fair to Koufax), it is reasonable to argue that any player who dominates his league for as long as these two players did, should be locks for the Hall of Fame.
Halladay was never able to pitch in a World Series and while that is very unfortunately and undoubtedly a regret that Halladay will have for the rest of life, this fact can’t prevent him from induction into the Hall of Fame. There are multiple players currently enshrined that never played in a World Series game: Ernie Banks, George Sisler, Andre Dawson, Rod Carew, Gaylord Perry, Fergie Jenkins, Phil Niekro, Ryne Sandberg, Luke Appling, and George Kell are all members of this club.
Roy Halladay is undoubtedly one of the greatest pitchers in the last two decades and the discussion on his legacy is just beginning. Fans in Toronto and Philadelphia will say however, that they will always remember Doc as a true professional and will always be grateful for his service to their teams.
The next stop for Halladay is his sons’ little league games; eventually he should be stopping in Cooperstown too.