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The Strike Zone

Debuts of Halladay and Lincecum provide more questions than answers

Roy Halladay Roy Halladay was removed on Wednesday night after one of the most bizarre starts in baseball history. (AP)

Two of the biggest question marks in baseball coming into the regular season, Roy Halladay and Tim Lincecum, both made their 2013 debuts on Wednesday night, but both did little to quell their respective fans' fears that the former Cy Young winners could be in for long seasons.

Starting against the Braves in Atlanta, Halladay recorded his first eight outs on strikeouts, but it took him 14 batters to get those eight Ks and he only lasted five more hitters beyond that point before getting the hook with one out in the bottom of the fourth, by which point he had thrown 95 pitches. The result was this bizarre pitching line:

3 1/3 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 2 HR, 3 BB, 9 K

With that, Halladay became the first pitcher since 1916 (as far back as Retrosheet's game-by-game records go), relievers included, to strike out nine men while recording 10 or fewer outs. His outing greatly resembled starts by David Cone in 1990 and the Mariners' Jim Beattie in 1982, both of whom pitched 3 2/3 innings while striking out nine but otherwise being hit pretty hard.

These days, Halladay is more like Beattie than Cone, another fellow Cy Young winner. Cone in 1990 was a young fireballer who would lead the majors in strikouts that season and the next. Beattie, meanwhile, relied on a sharp slider but his a fastball topped out in the high 80s due to lingering shoulder issues. Wednesday night, Halladay's fastball averaged just 90 miles per hour, down from 91 last year and nearly 93 in 2011.

Speaking of 2011, Halladay walked three men in a game just twice in that, his last great season, and it took him eight innings to do so each time. He also allowed multiple homers in a game just once that season, and walked none in that appearance. Even last year, he only allowed multiple home runs in five games and only walked three or more in one of those outings. So while those strikeouts may have provided a silver lining, Halladay's outing was mostly one big black cloud.

As for Lincecum, he had an almost perfectly opposite outing against the Dodgers, putting a dark lining around a silver cloud. Lincecum picked up the win by allowing just two unearned runs on three hits (two singles and a double), in five innings of work, but he also walked seven men and threw barely half of his 91 pitches for strikes. Those seven walks tied a career high Lincecum set last September, also against the Dodgers in a game in which his overall result was a positive one (6 IP, 2 R).

The two negative trends behind Lincecum's disastrous 2012 season were an increased walk rate and decreased velocity, and both continued Wednesday night. In addition to the walks, Lincecum's average four-seam fastball came in at right around 91 miles per hour per BrooksBaseball.net. That's about where he was last year, a significant drop from his 93 miles per hour in 2011. Lincecum actually hit 93 with his fastball in the first inning, but he quickly shed those additional miles per hour in the subsequent innings.

Halladay's next start will come at home on Monday against the Mets, while Lincecum will next take the ball on Tuesday at home against the Rockies. As is likely to be the case all season long, both will continue to bear watching.

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