Belated Halladay

Updated: November 11, 2003, 2:27 PM ET
By Jayson Stark | ESPN.com

If you were drawing up a formula for How to Win a Cy Young Award, you wouldn't recommend going winless in April. But that's exactly what Roy Halladay did this April.

Halladay
Halladay

So it tells you just how great he was over the final five months that when the American League Cy Young winner was announced Tuesday, Halladay was the clear choice to win it.

Only one starting pitcher -- Mike McCormick in 1967 -- has ever won a Cy Young after going 0-for-April. But Halladay added a second name to that group, even though, when he took the mound for his seventh start of the year, May 1 against Texas, he was still winless for the year (0-2), with a 4.89 ERA. In Chicago, one of his chief Cy Young competitors, Esteban Loaiza, already had five wins by then.

But that start against Texas launched the 15-game winning streak that turned around Halladay's season. He wouldn't lose again for three months. He wouldn't lose another home game until the last week of the season.

It was only the seventh single-season winning streak of 15 games or more in the last four decades. It was just the fifth in the American League since 1937. And it propelled Halladay toward a 22-7 season in which he led his league in wins and innings pitched, tied for the league lead in shutouts and complete games, and pitched into the eighth inning 17 times.

But heading into September, this still seemed like Loaiza's award to lose. Through August, he had one more win than Halladay and an ERA more than a run lower. But as Halladay was running off four straight complete-game wins, Loaiza's career year unraveled with three losses in a row -- two of them in critical games against the Twins. And those losses no doubt stuck in the memory banks of many voters.

Loaiza still won 21 games and led the league in strikeouts. But Halladay finished only about one-third of a run behind him in ERA, pitched nearly 40 more innings and threw eight more complete games.

Finishing third behind Halladay and Loaiza was Pedro Martinez.

In many ways, Pedro was baseball's most unhittable pitcher. He led the league in ERA, strikeout ratio and lowest opponents' batting average. But five blown saves by Boston's thrill-a-minute bullpen left him with only 14 wins. But no starting pitcher has won a Cy Young without winning at least 17 games over a full season.

And in the end the pitcher who deserved it most was the guy who gave the rest of the field a one-month head start -- Roy Halladay.

Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Click here to send Jayson a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.

Jayson Stark | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com