24 September 2009

The Billingsley Debate

The Case Against

Since August 18, when he returned from a strained hamstring, Chad Billingsley has pitched 40.2 innings. These have been bad innings. Crooked frames, full of crooked numbers. Twenty five runs allowed. All but one earned. That's an ERA of --- of what? Too much. Higher than 5. That's enough, no need to get more exact than that.

31 strikeouts, 15 walks, in those 40 and change innings. Hmm. That's okay, I guess. A little wild, and strikeouts at a lower rate than what we used to get from Billingsley, but not awful, you know. Maybe it's bad luck. No, it's not. I don't think so. His pitches get him into trouble.

12 doubles, 1 triple, 6 home runs. That's what Billingsley has allowed since coming back from injury. That's 19 extra base hits in 40.2 innings. That's not going to work. They hit the ball hard, in the air. A lot.

There was only one hit in Billingsley's last start. It was a home run. Even so, he certainly did pitch better. But is it enough? Which sample matters? His career? His season? His starts since the injury? His performance yesterday? Do the bad starts against Philadelphia in last year's playoffs matter?

I don't know. We tend to judge things based on the strongest memory we have of them. I wouldn't even consider what happened in last year's playoffs, but that is still a strong memory for a lot of people. But even if we ignore what happened last year, there is little hope for the defenders of Billingsley. His recent struggles overwhelm anything else. The home run he gave up last night overwhelms the five innings of brilliance that came before.

There's no time left. The momentum carrying Billingsley out of the Dodger playoff rotation is too great. He could be perfect against the Pirates in his next start and it probably wouldn't be enough. The decision has already been made.

The Case For

What about Torre, though? Has he made his decision? Torre is a smart guy. He usually knows who the better player really is. He didn't panic and abandon Broxton when he had his mini-slide. He may have played Pierre too much last year but he got it, he knew that Ethier and Kemp were better than Pierre. I think Torre also knows that Billingsley is a fundamentally a better pitcher than Garland and Padilla. But can Billingsley physically and mentally be that good pitcher they knew he can be right now? The answer, after last night, is yes. Even with one mistake. There is no reason to think that Billingsley is hurt or a mental wreck right now. None. One start such a small sample, but it is enough to answer those questions.

The one thing Billingsley may not be capable of doing right now is going deep into a ballgame. It's been months since he pitched into the seventh inning. He often runs into trouble by the sixth. So I think Billingsley should be a postseason starter, but only be allowed to pitch five innings. That's all the Dodgers need, with all the off-days and their deep and excellent 'pen.

Game 152 Unfair Loss Shares ( Dodgers )

Manny -- 1
Kemp -- 1
Ethier -- 1

The outfield had a bad day. Hitless, luckless. They couldn't get it done in the field or at the plate. The bullpen wasn't too hot either, but I blame the outfield more. Just a weird, frustrating game. At least all the other teams that matter lost. Cardinals, Phillies, and Rockies. The Giants won, though. Do they matter? No, they're still 9 games back of the Dodgers. ( As are the Braves, with the Marlins 9.5 back. )

Game 152 Unfair Win Shares ( Nats )

Zimmerman -- 1
Orr -- 1
Rivera -- 1

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