The Chad Billingsley Effect Still Lingers Over The Dodgers

No team should have to have Roberto Hernandez, Kevin Correia, and decline-phase Dan Haren in the rotation at the same time. That the Dodgers have done it for a few weeks and managed not only to survive but to thrive is a massive achievement unto itself, but this was never the plan, and that’s why so many wanted to see the Dodgers get David Price or John Lackey or someone before the July 31 deadline, or Bartolo Colon or Jon Niese after it. Since that never happened, actual prospects — not elite ones, but interesting ones — have been burned on veteran retreads. Two months ago, I was worried about the total lack of organizational depth, because Zach Lee had disappointed, Stephen Fife has been hurt, and Red Patterson isn’t interesting. I’m sure it was something we mentioned in passing earlier than that too.

The thing is, the Dodgers looked like they might have too many starters over the winter. This is when we all thought more of Lee, of course, but also when Ross Stripling, No. 6 on Dustin’s pre-season top prospect list and coming off a very impressive age-23 showing that ended at Double-A Chattanooga, would be in the mix. But Stripling blew out his arm in mid-February, and will be out until mid-2015.

No matter: Chad Billingsley would be back! After undergoing Tommy John surgery on April 24, 2013, Billingsley wasn’t expected to be ready for Opening Day, but that wasn’t a bad thing. It would give Josh Beckett a chance to prove that he was healthy — or not — and if and when Beckett or any other starter failed, Billingsley would be able to step in. If, somehow, all five starters were alive and productive, Billingsley could work his way back into the bullpen. When I was in Arizona in March, I saw a Billingsley bullpen session. He looked great.

Of course, that’s not how it worked out. Billingsley made it through only three innings total in two minor league rehab starts for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga before he went down with another elbow surgery, though not to the same UCL he’d had replaced. The 12 innings he lasted in April of 2013 are the only big league innings he’ll have pitched in two seasons, and the Dodgers will almost certainly choose the $3m buyout on his 2015 option of $14m.

With a healthy Billingsley — and the recovery rate from Tommy John is so high that it wasn’t unfair to count on him — this all looks a lot different. I know a lot of Dodger fans disliked him, but he spent five years as a solid mid-rotation starter, the kind the Dodgers could have desperately used when Zack Greinke‘s elbow barked, or Beckett’s hip exploded, or Hyun-jin Ryu‘s backside acted up, or Haren went through a stretch of awful. It’s not as though this team didn’t have an insurance plan in the rotation; they did. It just didn’t work out, and it’s easy at this point to forget that Billingsley was ever intended to be a part of the 2014 Dodgers. Now Victor Arano, Jesmuel Valentin, and whatever the Twins end up getting for Correia are gone. We probably won’t miss them, but we might. And we’ll likely never see Billingsley in Dodger blue again.


About

Mike wrote daily for over six long years (2007-13) about the Dodgers at Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness, which was named 2011′s “Best Sports Blog” by LA Weekly. He can currently be found writing multiple times per week at FanGraphs and ESPN, has been a producer and editor for Sports on Earth, and built The Hardball Times. He lives in New York City and will probably be asleep or on vacation when awesome things happen.


456 comments
JerryStephenson
JerryStephenson

A healthy Billingsly would have been great, but that's no longer an option so no need to even talk about it.  Dodgers are pretty much stuck with what they have for the play-offs.  My bigger concern rather than pitching is their hitting (or rather lack of it) lately.  Puig is slumping, Kemp is sporadic, Ramirez is hurting, and no one other than Gonzales has been a consistent RBI producer.  Someone is going to have to get hot and soon.  The Giants are playing like they did early this season, Washington still leads in overall record and the Pirates, St. Louis or Braves are capable of making a run in September.  A 3-man rotation won World Series for the Dodgers in the '60's, and Kershaw, Grienke, and Ryu can stack up against anyone in the play-offs.  Still, if the Dodgers don't start scoring runs better, even those three can't win.

BIah
BIah

Despite all our concerns about the rotation, at least we are in a good position to advance directly to the NLDS.  The Tigers and A's front offices went all in this year and both their teams are sitting several games out of first place in the division.

ak825
ak825

Indians sign Russell Branyan


Wait, what?

Saber Nightmare
Saber Nightmare

The Dodgers do actually have payroll restrictions, despite claims to the contrary.


Why would you not claim Colon?

- Casey -
- Casey -

The biggest reason I want Bart Colon is for all the fun that Conman would have with him on the team 

capnsparrow
capnsparrow

JFC we got enough assholes already we damn sure don't need another colon round here!!!!

PagansOedipalComplex
PagansOedipalComplex

Sorry Towel. You're wrong if you think Colon "isn't that much better than Hernadnez"

simply wrong about Colon who has a better park adjusted FIP than James Shields and Julio Teheran

Saber Nightmare
Saber Nightmare

@BIah If there was just a position between selling the whole farm to get David Price and doing nothing...

Tymathee
Tymathee

@BIah and are both in danger or not even getting the second wildcard. Baseball is so random...

PagansOedipalComplex
PagansOedipalComplex

@BIah but you know that there will be gnashing of teeth if the Dodgers do not make the world series this season

Hernandez has to be good in order for the Dodgers to get anywhere, I mean when's the last time there was a 3 man rotation that succeeded in the playoffs


and do you think a 3 man rotation can survive with the bullpen the Dodgers have?

ak825
ak825

@PagansOedipalComplex Or perhaps they have talked to the Mets and aren't willing to meet the price.  Again, the Mets have plans to win next year and Colon is likely a big part of that.

Tymathee
Tymathee

@PagansOedipalComplex Honestly, i think a ground ball pitcher like hernandez would do well in the playoffs. haren...no. fly ball pitchers that dont produce strikeouts get killed in the playoffs. He did have a 9 inning no decision with the indians...then got killed by Boston, but they blasted CC twice as well. 

Tymathee
Tymathee

@DBrim never played, so i have no idea what hes talking about. Give me a good skyrim reference or even borderlands 2...maybe getting a pearlescent gun? 

Matt Kemp's Bath Towel
Matt Kemp's Bath Towel

@PagansOedipalComplex Colon would be our 4th starter. If we're lucky, he makes 2 postseason starts. I really think it is a crapshoot whether he has a better start than Hernandez on any given night. He's been better, yes... but he's certainly not at Ryu's level, and if any one of Kershaw/Greinke/Ryu are injured come postseason, we're probably fucked regardless of whether or not we have Colon.


Would I take him over Hernandez and Correia if we had a do-over and were giving up the same pieces? Yeah, probably. But that doesn't seem like it was going to happen, and I'd rather not be committed to Colon for $11m in his age 42 season next year.

Saber Nightmare
Saber Nightmare

@PagansOedipalComplex @BIah If Ryu of a current DL status or Grienke of a should be DL status do not start?


Hernandez in one game per series presents a lesser solution, but Hernandez starting games 3 and 7 while Haren starts 4 is scary.

Tymathee
Tymathee

@PagansOedipalComplex @BIah well, if you go 3 men, then that's 2 starters that can come out the bullpen, so yes. Look at the Diamondbacks when they beat the Yankees. Name me their #3 starter outside of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling?

TheOcelot
TheOcelot

@ak825 @PagansOedipalComplex they're stacked for pitching options, so Colon is expendible - they're in need of more hitting. So would Colon for Ethier/Crawford + $$$ + mid level prospect work?

TheOcelot
TheOcelot

@Tymathee @DBrim well, hunter pence used to be a right fielder like you, then he took an arrow in the knee

DBrim
DBrim moderator

I've been playing Diablo 3 a lot recently. Also, apparently Pence was streaming Hearthstone the other day, which is pretty funny.

Jacopo (How is this a bad plan!)
Jacopo (How is this a bad plan!)

@Tymathee @Jacopo (How is this a bad plan!) @DBrim A little reading on the topic indicates you are on the right track. Apparently, Hitler was a common name and a clan of Hitlers immigrated to Ohio. So, there are streets with the name Hitler on them and the like. This all happened in the 18th and 19th century, well before the events in the early 20th century.

Tymathee
Tymathee

@DBrim Interesting, so pence is a normal person, cool. he needs to stop, i dont want to like him.


Then again, he does play diablo 3 and hearthstone, both of which i dont even want to touch.