Lindbergh: Roy Halladay was the pitcher other pitchers wanted to be

From SABR member Ben Lindbergh at The Ringer on November 7, 2017:

Last week’s World Series ended with an unspoken tribute to Roy Halladay. Before Astros reliever Charlie Morton threw the 97-mph first-pitch fastball that got Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager to ground to second for the final out of the season, he stepped back with his left leg, raised his arms and glove over his head, brought them back down to his chest, and followed through in almost perfect parallel to a pitcher who last threw a pitch professionally more than four years ago.

In early 2011, Morton, then a 27-year-old coming off a disastrous season, remodeled himself in Halladay’s image on the advice of then–Pirates pitching instructor Jim Benedict. Halladay, at the time, was the best pitcher in baseball, a reigning Cy Young winner who’d just led the majors in innings, shutouts, complete games, strikeout-to-walk ratio, and yes, even wins. For a pitcher like Morton, who was flailing and in need of a career reset, there was no base to build on. And so Morton reappeared that spring looking like (as one scout said) “an absolute clone” of Halladay.

Of course, you could copy him, but you couldn’t be him. For all the similarities in their motions, Morton stood straighter, his ramrod back lacking the distinctive Halladay hunch that made each pitch a sinister plot. When the two faced each other on June 29 of that year, Morton—perhaps feeling the pressure of pitching on the same mound as his model—had his worst start of the year, allowing eight runs on nine hits and four walks over four innings. Halladay, naturally, threw seven scoreless, one-hit innings.

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Originally published: November 8, 2017. Last Updated: November 8, 2017.