The baseball media hyped last night's game against the Yankees as a great pitcher's duel: CC Sabathia versus Roy Halladay. It didn't turn out that way. Halladay gave up six runs in only six innings of work, and yielded three home runs, which tied his career high.
The match up didn't live up to the hype but the praise was deserved. Although CC has been good but not great this year, he has the potential to shut down any lineup in baseball, which he demonstrated until the 4th inning. Halladay, meanwhile, has simply been brilliant this season (AAAA, anyone?), which Larry pointed out yesterday.
The problem wasn't the hype itself, but how it was justified. There should be pregame excitement anytime the Yankees face a pitcher who is having the kind of season Doc is having. But the game was sold to fans on the basis of Halladay's career numbers against the Yankees. This kind of sloppy journalism is prevalent in the baseball media, and should be criticized.
While it is true that Halladay's numbers against the Yankees are great (9-2, with a 2.51 ERA over the last three years), the Bombers hit him harder than usual in 2009.
Last season the Yankees faced Halladay five times (the team really does face this guy every time his team comes to town). He wasn't always the Doc we've come to admire but fear. On May 12th he allowed only one run in a complete game, but on July 4th and August 4th the Bombers got to him. He gave up three homers in each outing. The homers were relevant to tonight's game. Of the six, he gave up one to Jorge Posada and one to Mark Teixeira, players he would face tonight. The other four blasts were two apiece to Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui, players who are no longer on the Yankees, but whose success against Halladay at least would indicate a possible weakness against a lefty-heavy lineup.
Halladay returned to the form we expect from him when he faced the Yankees again on September 4th, but he demonstrated vulnerability less than two weeks later on September 15th. The complete game shutout he tossed earlier in September is something all Yankee fans would like to forget, but that aside he gave up doubles to Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher in the later game. Doc gave up only two runs in the contest, but he provided more evidence the Yankees could hit him hard, and threw 112 pitches in only six innings of work.
Halladay's struggles against the Yankees last year -- limited though they may have been -- should have influenced some of the hype leading to last night's game. While it is true that Halladay has traditionally owned the Yankees for his career, that was not as much the case in 2009. Many of the Yankee hitters he was scheduled to face last night got hard hits against him last year. It wouldn't have taken much research for members of the mainstream baseball media to know this. Michael Kay, for example, repeatedly referenced Doc's career numbers versus the Yankees during the broadcast, but only mentioned that he'd struggled at times last season against the team after he gave up the homers, and probably because an aide handed him a note.
The baseball media frequently cites a player's career performance against a given team to provide insight into how that player should do right now against that same team. This makes no sense. Sticking with the current example, Roy Halladay has been logging time in the AL East since 1998. How, exactly, do his numbers against Scott Brosius or Jason Giambi help understand what he can be expected to do when he faces the Yankees in 2010? The answer, of course, is that they can't, but baseball struggles to grasp this.
* Photo source: NY Daily News