Can't Stop The Long Bomb Or The Running Game - Ted Lilly

Ted Lilly sure does have to rub up a lot of baseballs.

Most observers of the 2011 Los Angeles Dodgers have noticed two things about starting pitcher Ted Lilly this season: 1) the ball seems to fly out of the park at a high rate while he is toeing the rubber and, 2) when runners do have to stop on the bases, they seem to steal bases at will.

A quick perusal of the statistics does, in fact, show that the observers are correct. Lilly is allowing 1.67 home runs for every nine innings he pitches (HR/9), and baserunners have been successful in 92% of their attempts to steal against him (SB%) having been caught only twice in 26 attempts. The HR/9 will be a career high if sustained, excluding the cup of coffee in his debut season, but the SB% was actually higher in both 2003 (96%) and last season (95%). 24 consecutive successful steals would bring his personal best into play.

Tonight Lilly climbs the hill to face the Philadelphia Phillies, a team whose offense in recent times is known for tremendous power (Ryan Howard, et al.) and highly successful base thievery (Jimmy Rollins and company). As we await this potentially cataclysmic coincidence of events, perhaps it would be illuminating, insightful, or simply interesting to see how Lilly's 2011 performance to date, and his career rates, stack up in various historical contexts.

Are Los Angeles Dodgers fans seeing something unique this season in the combination of homers allowed and base stealing allowed by Lilly this season? Surprisingly, the answer is no, but it does appear to be an exceedingly rare combination. Limiting the list to players that qualify for the league ERA title (pitch in at least 1 inning per team game player, here are the LA Dodgers pitchers who have allowed HR/9 greater than 1.2857 (the equivalent of 1 HR every 7 innings), and a separate top-10 list of LAD pitchers with high SB%.

Highest HR/9 - Los Angeles Dodgers (ERA title qualifiers only):
Rk 	Player 		HR/9 	IP 	Year 	Age
1 Jose Lima 1.74 170.1 2004 31
2 Ted Lilly 1.67 129.2 2011 35
3 Darren Dreifort 1.45 192.2 2000 28
4 Chan Ho Park 1.44 194.1 1999 26
5 Ismael Valdez 1.42 203.1 1999 25
6 Jeff Weaver 1.41 224.0 2005 28
7 Odalis Perez 1.36 185.1 2003 25
8 Johnny Podres 1.33 182.2 1961 28
9 Don Sutton 1.31 260.1 1970 25
Highest SB% Allowed - Los Angeles Dodgers (ERA titles qualifiers only):
Rk 	Player 		SB% 	IP 	Year 	Age
1 Jose Lima 100% 170.1 2004 31
2 Stan Williams 94% 185.2 1962 25
3 Ted Lilly 92% 129.2 2011 35
4 Don Sutton 92% 254.1 1975 30
5 Sandy Koufax 92% 311.0 1963 27
6 Rick Rhoden 88% 164.2 1978 25
7 Derek Lowe 87% 218.0 2006 33
8 Hideo Nomo 86% 191.1 1995 26
9 Tom Candiotti 86% 203.2 1992 34
10 Don Sutton 86% 232.2 1967 22

Only the late Jose Lima, who tops both lists with his 2004 season, has outdone the 2011 version of Lilly, who has the only other season gracing both of these lists, and in high style. With 2 caught stealings for Lilly, Lima's perfect record is unattainable, but the home run rate standard is in definitely in play. Perhaps every time Lilly takes the mound, we should refer to it as Lima Time.

Naturally one begins to wonder how the current lefthander stacks up against the career greats in these two metrics. For the "Integration Era" - as baseball-reference.com terms the time period of 1947 to the present - here are the all-time best gopherballers and aiders and abettors to larceny (min 1000 innings pitched):

Highest Career HR/9 Allowed (min. 1000 innings):
Rk 	Player 		HR/9 	IP 	From 	To 	Age
1 Scott Elarton 1.62 1065.1 1998 2008 22-32
2 Bruce Chen 1.61 1092.0 1998 2011 21-34
3 Brian Anderson 1.54 1547.0 1993 2005 21-33
4 Jose Lima 1.53 1567.2 1994 2006 21-33
5 Eric Milton 1.52 1582.1 1998 2009 22-33
6 Rick Helling 1.46 1526.1 1994 2006 23-35
7 Ramon Ortiz 1.45 1409.0 1999 2011 26-38
8 James Baldwin 1.38 1322.2 1995 2005 23-33
9 Ted Lilly 1.37 1848.0 1999 2011 23-35
10 Oliver Perez 1.35 1111.2 2002 2010 20-28

Dodger fans have had the distinct pleasure of watching exactly half of these gentleman present their offerings to salivating hitters while donning Dodger Blue.

Highest Career SB% Allowed (min. 1000 innings):
Rk 	Player	 	SB% 	IP 	From 	To 	Age
1 Bob Wickman 85% 1059.0 1992 2007 23-38
2 Steve Bedrosian 84% 1191.0 1981 1995 23-37
3 Ed Halicki 84% 1063.0 1974 1980 23-29
4 Jose Contreras 83% 1154.1 2003 2011 31-39
5 Dennis Eckersley 83% 3285.2 1975 1998 20-43
6 Fred Hutchinson 83% 1096.1 1947 1953 27-33
7 Freddy Garcia 82% 2047.0 1999 2011 24-35
8 Ted Lilly 82% 1848.0 1999 2011 23-35
9 Jake Peavy 81% 1543.1 2002 2011 21-30
10 Dick Tidrow 81% 1746.2 1972 1984 25-37

Lilly is the sole Dodger representative on this list, and it is pretty clear that his presence on both lists makes him a prime candidate to top any list that takes both categories into account. There are a number of ways to analyze the statistics together, many of which are likely beyond my capability to conjure up, for example, attempting to weight each stat for the amount of damage it does to run probabilities or some such thing. I took a simpler cut at it. Some studies have shown that a 75% SB% is the "break-even point"; that is, the point where the advantages gained by the successful steals is exactly counterbalanced by the costs accrued by the runners that were thrown out. This is also the success rate that renowned base thieves achieve or better. Without further ado, here are all the pitchers that have allowed their opposition as a whole to be great stealers and have allowed a HR/9 greater than 1.125 (the equivalent of 1 HR every 8 innings). This list is also for the Integration Era and with 1000 IP minimum:

Rk 	Player	 	SB% 	HR/9 	IP 	From 	To 	Age 	
1 Ted Lilly 82% 1.37 1848.0 1999 2011 23-35
2 Tim Wakefield 77% 1.16 3178.0 1992 2011 25-44
3 Ervin Santana 76% 1.14 1226.0 2005 2011 22-28
4 Jason Johnson 76% 1.20 1357.0 1997 2008 23-34
5 Hideo Nomo 75% 1.14 1976.1 1995 2008 26-39
6 Jose Lima 75% 1.53 1567.2 1994 2006 21-33

Of course Lilly stands alone atop this august group of hurlers. Interestingly enough, the Dodgers have employed four of these six moundsmen at one time or another.

The conclusion is a simple one: Ted Lilly has always allowed home runs and stolen bases at high rates, but he is approaching new heights - or depths - this season. In this case, the numbers and the eyes are in full agreement.

All statistics courtesy of the indispensable Baseball-Reference.com.

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