One performance means as much as any other. A true evaluation requires separation from the event and the exercise of cold-minded regularity.
One performance means as little as any other, as well. To say, right now, the Chad Billingsley is struggling is a truth, if the concept of "now" is understood in sufficiently abstract fashion. Because right now, literally right now, Billingsley is not pitching, and so he cannot be struggling. Perhaps he is struggling as he tries to open a pickle jar, or perhaps he has fallen again, as he did this offseason, and has broken a leg, and is struggling to get up, or struggling to understand how it could happen again. Leaving these alternatively comical and grim hypotheticals aside, it is clear that Billingsley is not struggling now. He has struggled. Not anymore. Now he rests. He may yet struggle again. We do not know.
If that 6 run, 1.2 inning start he made last night was instead a month ago it would be buried in my memory, only recalled if I wondered how his ERA could be so high, at 3.76. Instead, that terrible start is huge, overinflated, a half pound balloon in the room, a thing that requires explanation. Why is it here? How did it happen? Or perhaps it can just be popped. Make statements that are like needles, direct and pointed, narrowly wishful. That start didn't matter. He gobbled a bad burrito. He was thrown off by the All-Star Break. He was hurt.
But that would matter, if he was hurt. There is no evidence for that, unless worry and speculation are evidence. I read the stories on dodgers.com, looking for hints, signs. There were none. I still wonder. Maybe I should not. There are times when speculation is the devil's playground. It is so seductive to fixate on an explanation that will drive out uncertainty.
A month from now that start last night will be a month ago. That is the perspective I seek. When it can be seen alongside all the other starts, no more important, no less important. One of many. Every start counts, but no start defines. Hershiser did not pitch 59 scoreless innings in a day. Valenzuela did not write the ballad of Fernando in a day. The rise and fall of legends is spread across the warm evenings of summer. Each summer eve the breeze comes off the ocean, varying, sometimes strong and cool, other times nearly still. The players vary like the breeze. And too, each player is an ocean. Vast, accepting no explanations. Billingsley is caught in low tide. More than that we cannot know.
Game 90 Unfair Loss Shares ( Dodgers )
Billingsley -- 3
Unfair Win Shares ( Astros )
Oswalt -- 2
Rodriguez -- 1