Sunday, November 28, 2010

Taking Up the Chad Billingsley Challenge

In this space yesterday, this writer gave the Dodgers thumbs up on the Jon Garland signing. In the post this writer threw in as an aside that the move would make Chad Billingsley a terrific fifth starter. A comment suggested that this writer was all wet because there wasn't a knowledge of how effective Billingsley was last year. Many times, comments from "Anonymous" readers can be taken with a grain of salt, but just for the ego's sake, the Fan went and took a look at Billingsley's season. And you know what? The comment could be dead on.

Billingsley basically got lost in at least this writer's consciousness after a disastrous second half of the 2009 season. After a 9-4 first half that season, Billingsley went 3-7 with an ERA of 5.20. Opponents slugged .436 against him in the second half after slugging only .339 the first half. His struggles were magnified because the Dodgers were in the heat of a pennant race. He lost so much favor with Joe Torre that he was taken out of the rotation in the playoffs and only pitched one disastrous relief appearance against the Phillies in the 2009 NLDS.

Then in 2010, the Dodgers fell out of contention the last month of the season. Their season was lost in the shuffle of reporting and Billingsley finished an undazzling 12-11, the same record as 2009. It's safe to assume that the Fan (and perhaps others) simply figured that the same funk that Billingsley encountered in the second half of 2009 carried over into 2010. That assumption was incorrect. By all peripherals, Billingsley had a valuable year.

Billingsley finished with an ERA in 2010 of 3.57. It was good for a 109 ERA+ which is better than league average but not overly inspiring considering he pitches in a pitcher's park and pitches against weak hitting teams like the Padres and Giants. But his FIP was 3.07 which indicates that his season was much better than his final ERA indicates. Billingsley had his best BB/9 of his starting career, had a more than respectable 2.58 K/BB ratio and was better on the road than he was at home. The peripherals suggest he was just as good as he was in 2008 when he won 16 games for the Dodgers.

Consider also that the Dodgers scored two runs or less in 11 of his 31 starts and five runs or less in 23 of his 31 starts. He wasn't exactly supported by his offense. Torre also had a quick hook in 2010 and the struggles of the bullpen certainly put a damper on Billingsley's win total. Fangraphs gave him a 4.6 WAR in 2010 which in dollar figures was worth an impressive $18.4 million dollars. Baseball-reference rated him lower but it's safe to say that Billingsley was every bit as good as he was in 2008 and was a very valuable pitcher.

Billingsley pitched poorly on the road against the Reds, the Cubs and the Cardinals in small sample sizes but was very good against the Phillies, Braves and was exceptional against the Giants. He's made 30 starts or more for four straight seasons, with over 190 innings in each season.

Billingsley had a very good season in 2010 and has been a successful major league pitcher for the last four seasons with the one exception of a July and September of 2009. The Fan stands corrected.

1 comment:

Josh Borenstein said...

Yeah, Billingsley is a solid pitcher. Kershaw and him are a good 1-2 punch. With Kuroda, Lilly, and Garland the Dodgers have a very nice staff.