Chad Billingsley was drafted by the Dodgers in the first round of the 2003 amateur draft, and entering this season, is the the longest tenured starting pitcher for the club. After getting called up to the majors in 2006 (at 21 years old) Billingsley split time as a starter and reliever, but was made a full time starter in the middle of 2007. Billingsley enjoyed a very solid 2008 posting a pitching line of 3.14 / 3.35 / 3.62 and recording a win in the NLDS against the Chicago Cubs. Despite the excellent year from the then 23 year old, Billingsley had several detractors in the media thanks to a disappointing NLCS which was compounded by the fact that Billingsley didn't plunk any Phillies. Billingsley was considered mentally weak and not ready to lead the Dodgers rotation in 2009 after the 2008 'ace" Derek Lowe signed with the Braves. 2009 started spectacularly for Billingsley, with a first half where he posted a 9-4 record and a 3.38 ERA earning him an all-star game selection. Unfortunately, the wheels came off a bit in the second half of 2009 and Billingsley struggled so much that he was left out of the playoff rotation (Torre inexplicably elected to start an injured Hiroki Kuroda instead of Billingsley in the NLCS.) Needless to say, if there were skeptics going into 2009, they remained skeptical going into 2010.
Fortunately for Billingsley and the Dodgers, Billingsley pitched brilliantly in 2010. Billingsley (along with the other constants in the Dodgers pitching rotation Kuroda and Clayton Kershaw) were bright spots in an otherwise disappointing year. As 2010 ended, Billingsley was the least of the Dodgers worries (of the starting pitching, only Kershaw and Billingsley were under contract/club control when the season ended) and the 26 year old right hander is looking to head the top of the Dodgers rotation with another solid year.
Wins may be a terrible way to evaluate a pitcher, but it is fun to see your pitcher racking up wins. Billingsley has recorded 59 career wins, which is the most by a pitcher in his draft class (2003.) The second is Paul Maholm with 47 and then John Danks with 46. Also, after going 12-11 last season Chad has finished with a winning record in each of his 8 pro seasons (including seasons in the minors.)
Billingsley avoided arbitration with the Dodgers and signed a one year deal worth $6.275MM. Billingsley has 4.110 years of major league service time and has never been optioned to the minors, but since it has been more than 3 years since his major league debut he cannot be optioned without being exposed to waivers (which makes it a non-starter.)
|2011 Projections - Age 26 Season|
Looking back on Billingsley's improved 2010 numbers, there are some interesting trends to consider going into 2011. Billingsley posted an x-FIP higher than his ERA, which leads you to believe he was somewhat lucky, but also posted an ERA a bit higher than his FIP, leading you to believe he was unlucky. Billingsley did have a BABIP of right around .300 which doesn't scream particularly unlucky, but looking at the the x-FIP you see that Billingsley enjoyed a career best HR/FB ratio of 4.5% (compared to 8.1% and 8.8% for the two years prior.) In fact, Billingsley's HR/FB ratio of 4.5% was the second lowest amongst starters in MLB (behind Josh Johsnon at 4.2%.) As such, it makes sense to expect a normalization of his HR rate and track the projection closer to his x-FIP for 2010 rather than FIP.
I predict an ERA of 3.55, FIP of 3.70 and x-FIP of 3.45 in 206 innings pitched.
What is your prediction? Be sure to guess Billingsley's ERA, number of innings pitched, plus anything else you would like to predict.