Halladay will be an ace again

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Where did his dominance go? Did it slink out the rear exit with his velocity? What was 2012 -- an injury-fueled outlier or the first tremor of something much worse?

These are legitimate questions, and Roy Halladay will try to answer them this spring. The funny thing is that, until this point, Halladay's career has been mystery-less. Elite innings and consistency -- they've reported to camp with Halladay for a decade. But he'll be 36 in May, he slogged through 156⅓ innings last season, his 4.49 ERA was his worst since 2000, he struck out fewer batters, he visited the DL, so people ask: Who is Halladay now?

That's fair. But Halladay is also one season removed from 233⅔ innings, a 2.35 ERA, a top-20 ground ball rate (among starters), a top-11 strikeout rate and a top-four walk rate. He did that at age 34.

"If he hasn't lost arm speed, which you can't know until you see him during the season, then he can get back to that," a longtime MLB evaluator who has followed Halladay's career says.

Can he get back to that in 2013? Yes, he can. Study Halladay and his 2012 season more closely and his path back to being a dominant ace emerges rather clearly.