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Halladay devoured The Mental ABC's of Pitching, which preaches a simple, pitch-by-pitch approach. By 2002 Toronto had replaced Ash with J.P. Ricciardi as G.M. Ricciardi had worked with Dorfman when he was in the A's front office and the psychologist worked with the team. "You know him?" Halladay asked. Ricciardi put him in touch with Dorfman.
"And that's when I saw the biggest difference," Halladay says. "The first part was trying to rebuild that confidence, having a positive mentality. The second part was to simplify things. Sometimes you get caught up in the big picture—the seven innings, the three runs or less, who you're facing—and you get away from what makes you successful, which is executing pitches.
"Knowing when I go into a game that I had prepared the best I possibly could was a way to help build confidence. I didn't always need success on the field to feel like I was going to be good. I felt like I could create that on my own the way I prepared."
Says Brandy, "[Dorfman] really taught Roy to focus on one thing at a time. When he gave up a hit, he learned to think about the next hitter. He helped him deal with those mental stumbling blocks every person has to deal with. The book and [Dorfman] helped his pitching career, our marriage, the way we looked at life in general.... It absolutely saved his career."
The last piece under Halladay's control is the baseball. Facing Halladay is a maddening, disarming experience because he can make the ball move in either direction on both sides of the plate at virtually the same speed, generally between 90 and 93 mph. Until 2007 Halladay would throw cutters that broke into the hands of lefthanded hitters or sinkers that dived off the outside edge of the plate, a traditional menu. But that year he learned to throw both pitches to both sides of the plate, including sinkers that started at a lefthanded hitter's hip and broke back over the plate and backdoor cutters that nipped the outside corner. It created a scissors effect of movement to both sides of the plate.
"You see two different pitches coming at you the same speed from the same release point," says Baltimore's Roberts, "but you don't know which way it's going to break. Think how hard that is to hit."
"It's command and movement," Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter says. "You can't go up there thinking you're going to take some pitches and work the count because you'll be 0 and 2 before you know it. And you know you can't run up his pitch count to get him out early. His command is too good, and he never comes out."
Says McDonald, "He is the perfect pitcher to play behind because every pitch is going exactly where it's supposed to. I'll give you an example. With a runner at first and Alex Rodriguez up, I'm not playing normal double play depth. I know Doc is going to bury the ball inside on him, so I'm almost in the hole. If he hits a ground ball to second, there's no way we're turning two—we can't even get the out at second—because I'm too far from second base. But there's no way he's hitting a ground ball to second base. Doc is not going to miss location by that much. It's going to be on his hands and a ground ball to the left side."
Escalating the pressure on a hitter, Halladay works quickly between pitches and pounds the strike zone early, often and hard. Perhaps only once in every 60 pitches or so, Arnsberg says, will he throw a pitch that, out of hand, can be dismissed by the hitter as a ball. And instead of adding and subtracting velocity from his sinker and cutter, he throws both as hard as he can.
Every year Halladay aims to have fewer walks than starts. Last year he went to 3-and-0 counts only 16 times out of the 963 batters he faced. He was the first AL pitcher in 12 years to throw as many as 239 innings without an intentional walk.