I don't like Brett Tomko, but he does have value. The man is consistently below average. If you add Brett Tomko to your starting rotation, you can be reasonably assured that your fifth starter will not be a complete disaster. Tomko only becomes a problem when you want him to be something more than a fifth starter. With that said, at no point after September 2006 has Brett Tomko been one of the five best starters on this team. His slow start certainly hasn't done anything to make him look like a person deserving of a rotation spot. Grady Little's comments do nothing to make me believe that he supports Tomko either. When asked how long the club can keep riding Tomko he simply replied with "We'll see".
The entire season, the solution to Tomko has been right there: give the ball to Chad. However, after Billingsley got shelled last night, I've seen several sources say that he's not the answer. This simply isn't true. When making an evaluation of a player the first thing you need to ask yourself is "if what I just saw didn't happen would I still have the same opinion?" Single events mean nothing over the course of a long season, and one amazing or terrible play should do nothing to change a player's value. (Notable exception: someone's groin exploding as they leave the batters box.)
Billingsley's entire season falls under the realm of small sample size, so making judgments based on what he's done in 2007 is pretty much pointless. However, he has shown some encouraging signs. While Billingsley's strikeout numbers were terrible last year (5.9 K/9, 1.02 K/BB) he's shown huge improvements in that department this year (10.96 K/9, 2.54 K/BB). Again, this doesn't prove anything; Mark Hendrickson was just as effective after 23 innings this year. Unlike Hendrickson, Billingsley has a track record of performance in the minor leagues. Hendrickson was a junkballer his entire career, Billingsley was striking out 10 per nine as a 20 year old in AA. Hendrickson is 33, Billingsley is 23. When Billingsley makes sudden massive improvements, I'm a hell of a lot more likely to care.
I can't guarantee that Billingsley will be better than Brett Tomko in the short term, or even that he'll be better in 2007. Heck, if we just kept handing Tomko the ball every fifth day, he'd more than likely regress to his usual below average 4.70 ERA. However, as it becomes more and more apparent that this team has trouble scoring runs, we need hope. We need more than known mediocrity. Chad Billingsley gives us that hope. Sure Billingsley could end up being useless this year, but there's also a good chance that he becomes a strong part of our rotation. At this point in the season, the Dodgers can't suddenly obtain a reliable starter without making an offer someone can't refuse. Chad Billingsley is arguably the best young player from a team with a loaded farm system, and he deserves the opportunity to show what he can do. At this point, the Dodgers can't afford not to give him a chance.
Nate Silver had a chat on Baseball Prospectus yesterday and said something that I found rather interesting:
Nate Silver: Clemens, Wolf, Sheets, Pettitte, Santana.
Randy Wolf over Ben Sheets? (Hell, anyone but Johan Santana over Sheets?) Silver explains further:
Nate Silver: Sheets just isn't striking people out this year and that has to be a tremendous concern for someone with his injury history. I'd probably take him over Wolf long-term, but the question as it was phrased to me dealt with value for the rest of 2007 specifically. Sheets seems like a guy who might need to get hurt before he can get healthy, if that makes any sense.
I'll just say that I'll be really, really, really, really, really happy if Randy Wolf is better than Ben Sheets and leave it at that. Heck, I'd be happy if Wolf ends the season better off than anyone on that list.