Opinion of Kingman's Performance

Friday, April 26, 2013

Billingsley’s Value was Amongst the Top Tier Starters in the League

photo by Harry How/Getty Images

7-0, 2.05 ERA, 57 IP, 46 Hits allowed, 13 Earned Runs allowed, 35 Strikeouts, 16 Walks
Those are some pretty amazing numbers and numbers that would look even better if you threw out the one start in which he had to leave the game because his elbow blew up while allowing three runs to score.  Yes, Chad Billingsly was “ace-like” in his final seven starts last year and first two  this season.  All the while he was pitching with a partially torn elbow ligament.  It all makes you wonder what he would do with a perfectly healthy arm.
Sometimes it takes a while for a pitcher to figure things out.  Billingsley had electric stuff when he emerged on the Major League scene back in 2006.  He was a number one starter in the making.  That curve ball buckled hitters.  That sneaky fastball would handcuff others.  He was soon an all star and a rising major league star.  But he never seemed to reach that full potential.  There were a lot of hiccups along the way and some disastrous post-season performances.
Joe Torre lost confidence in him during a pennant stretch run and removed him from the rotation in 2009.  It was a stunning turn of events and many fans were left thinking that Billingsley’s problems weren’t physical but mental. 
There are some guys that never grasp the mental nuances of the game.  In no way am I saying that Billingsley wasn’t a smart pitcher.  Fact is, he is.  But there were some gamesmanship issues.  There were allegations that he didn’t back his team and brush-back hitters when it was needed in the NLCS against Philadelphia.  There were some failures to execute on the national stage in the biggest games of his life.
Bills isn’t the first to have this happen to him.  Burt Hooton was ineffective against the Yankees in ’78 and blasted by Howard Cosell on National TV because of it.  Yet, he turned things around and by 1981 was a clutch pitcher in that series.  There are recoveries of these sorts and Billingsley has been known to bounce back.
Such was the case last season as he turned around a disastrous 4-9 win-loss record to 10-9 over a matter of 5 weeks work.  Those were dominating performances during the dog days of August.  He was prepped for the pennant stretch run and the Dodgers were going to make it on his back.
Then the elbow ligament tear was diagnosed.  Billingsley was hopeful he could return in time to help, but nature’s healing process didn’t allow it to happen.  And then, it confused him.  Chad was feeling better.  The pain subsided.  He started working out and could really air out the throws.  Perhaps surgery wouldn’t be needed and he could avoid the dreaded Tommy John surgery.
What followed was a platelet rich plasma injection and programs that built up his arm strength.  Bills said the arm felt great in Spring Training and that he’d be ready to go.  There were pitchers in the past that had avoided the surgery and been very effective like Takashi Saito.   This Dodger team was loaded and he wanted to be a part of a championship season.
Dave Stewart and Chad Billingsley

Billingsley’s agent, Dave Stewart, knows a bit about pitching and he was in Chad’s corner when a decision was made to avoid the surgery.  Back in late October last year, while Chad was rehabilitating his arm, he agreed that his client could beat the odds.  “It looks like he’s going to be ready to start the 2013 season,” he told L.A. Times reporter Dylan Hernandez.  Stewart added that the results were “very promising.”  Article LINKED HERE
When Billingsley recorded a win at San Diego in the second week of the season, he was all smiles on the Dodger pre-game show the next day with Steve Lyons.  “Aren’t you glad your arm isn’t in a sling and you aren’t thinking about next season?” he was asked by the Dodger announcer.  Chad affirmed that he was thrilled to be a part of this season and that he really looked forward to contributing to a very good Dodger team.
Two weeks later to that day, he was getting the Tommy John surgery.
They say hindsight is 20/20, and it certainly is.  We’d all prefer to be seeing Billingsley prepping for the month of September this year, and that would have been the case with him had he received the TJ Surgery in late August, 2012, when the elbow ligament tear was first diagnosed.  But Chad thought he could beat this thing.  He was surely beating the league with a torn ligament, and his stats attested to that fact.  Now it’s a waiting game for him.  A long and lonely waiting game.
Billingsley enters next season in the final year of a lucrative contract he signed a few years back.  He’ll only be 29 years old.   He’ll be pitching for his life too.  The Dodgers have the option of buying him out following the season for $3 million or paying him $14 million to pitch the 2015 season.  All really depends on his recovery from surgery.  Who knows, $14 million might be a bargain for a top of the line starter in 2015.  The question remains if Chad will adequately fill that role.   Many return from TJ surgery stronger than ever and with Chad’s pitching knowledge and a new arm, there is little doubt that he could return stronger than ever.  One thing for sure, he’ll give it everything he’s got.  That tends to happen when your career is on the line.

No comments:

Post a Comment