Around the All-Star break in 2012, Chad Billingsley was floundering. For the first time in his life he lost five straight starts. He stood at 4-9 with a 4.21 ERA and was also dealing with some elbow inflammation that landed him for a brief stay on the disabled list.
But it went deeper than that. While it was fun last week to look back at Clayton Kershaw's 2.01 ERA over his last 50 starts (after Friday in Phoenix that ballooned to 2.04 over his last 51 starts), a similar stretch of time for Billingsley was just disappointing. From the beginning of the 2011 season through the 2012 All-Star break, Billingsley was 15-20 with a 4.24 ERA. His peripherals were a little better than that, as his FIP was roughly 3.77, but in the first year of a three-year, $35 million contract Billingsley was mostly a big pile of "meh."
But after the All-Star break Billingsley began to turn things around. He went from losing five straight starts to winning six straight, all the while growing a beard. But he left that seventh start early, on Aug. 24, with elbow pain, and never threw another pitch that season because of a partially torn elbow ligament.
But after an offseason of rehab Billingsley is back and fully healthy, only briefly sidelined by a finger issue from a bunting drill during spring training. He won his first start, last Wednesday against the Padres, and will look for more of the same on Monday night as the Dodgers host San Diego and old friend Eric Stults at Dodger Stadium.
The Dodgers have won eight straight games in which Billingsley has started. He is 7-0 with a 1.76 ERA during that span. His strikeouts are down (from 20.9% of batters faced in his career to 15.3% in his last eight starts), but hi walks are way down (from 9.9% to 6.9%).
So while Billingsley probably wasn't as bad as the numbers showed that year and a half of malaise from 2011 to the 2012 All-Star break, he is similarly likely not as good as the undefeated world beater. But Billingsley is healthy, the beard is back, and he is facing a team in San Diego against whom he has always had success.
Time: 7:10 p.m.
TV: Prime Ticket