Originally posted on Phillies Nation  |  Last updated 3/16/12

PHOTO: AP

A stir was created when, following his 2.2-inning, 7-hit, 5-earned run start against the Twins Wednesday, Ken Rosenthal reported that Roy Halladay‘s velocity was down to 89 miles per hour. Here’s how Rosenthal told it:

One scout said Halladay topped out at 89 mph Wednesday against the Minnesota Twins, threw from a lower arm angle and lacked bite on his changeup and sinker. Another said that Halladay does not resemble the same pitcher who comes out “like gangbusters” every spring.

Rosenthal spoke to Ruben Amaro before publishing the piece and Amaro downplayed the situation, saying he wasn’t concerned.

“I’m not worried about his arm strength,” Amaro said. “He’s only throwing 89 mph. He usually throws 91 to 93. It’s really not that much different at this stage of camp.

“If it was March 25 and he was still throwing in that range and not locating, then I’d be concerned. Right now, he’s just working on command. I don’t have any concerns. He’s throwing a lot of off-speed pitches, working on his changeup, different things.”

Halladay then came out and, as Deadspin labeled it, “accused Rosenthal of throwing some [fecal matter] at the wall.”

“Yeah, I heard about that,” said Halladay. “Poor reporting on the extreme end of poor reporting. It couldn’t be further from the truth.”

Two quick points:

  • Halladay’s average fastball is just over 92 mph. A drop to 89 isn’t precipitous, and furthermore, Halladay is far from a hurler who relies on velocity. His pitching blueprint is very similar to Greg Maddux‘s old approach. Command, movement and intelligence are all more critical to Halladay’s success than velocity.
  • That being said, if Halladay’s fastball loses some speed we could see an increase in his foul balls, which is usually the best way to knock Doc out of a game. You get the feeling that when Halladay finally does wind down, he won’t be bashed around the yard but will instead give up a ton of foul balls that lead to longer, more successful at-bats and earlier exits.

I’ve gotten a few questions on Twitter since Wednesday from fans feeling all different levels of concern. Most are brushing it off as a one-time occurrence. Some are scared. One wrote to me that if Halladay keeps it up, the Phillies should trade Cole Hamels and start a rebuilding process.

My reaction after the initial “Uh-oh” was, “Wow, how freaking good is Halladay that this is only the first or second negative report we’ve heard about him in three years.”

Just remember the date Amaro used, March 25. Comments like these are typically forgotten, and if Halladay tops out at 89 instead of 92-94 in the final week of March, words will be twisted in a new way. But just keep 3/25 on your calendar, just in case.

If his velocity is still down, then maybe we worry.

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