Chad Billingsley is almost all the way back. All of those articles expressing worry about the Dodgers 4th and 5th starters are perfectly valid. Which is why it’s such huge news that Billingsley has almost recovered from the dreaded Tommy John surgery. According to Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com, he threw his first live bullpen in a little over 11 months, and apparently felt really well:
"“My arm felt good, so that’s definitely good, especially being the first time going full bore with the heater and the first time throwing a hard curveball and changeups,” Billingsley said. “I was a little rusty, but I was very pleased with the curveball. The timing was a little off, but I threw some good pitches, and overall, I’m pretty pleased with it.”"
This makes me happy inside, like I’ve said,the Dodgers 4h and 5th starters aren’t looking too great, considering the Dan Haren “dead arm” period, Josh Beckett’s thumb malfunction, Ross Stripling’s UCL surgery, we can easily see problems with the back end of the rotation.
And even when healthy, there’s no question that Billingsley is the 4th best pitcher on the Dodgers. Chad’s career has been solid, if unspectacular, I think every team in baseball would take a pitcher who has a 3.65 ERA, 3.67 FIP, a 7.94 K/9, and a 46.3 GB% throughout his career. Also, lets not forget his incredible stretch right before he got injured in the first place, it looked like he was finally putting it together, from July 2nd 2012 to August 24th 2012, in 57 IP (yeah small sample size applies, and it is essentially saying LOOK AT HOW GREAT HE WAS WHEN HE WASN’T HORRENDOUS), he put up a 2.53 ERA, and was finally that number 2 starter the Dodgers needed for the longest time. I do subscribe to the fact that he was subject to small sample size wizardry, I mean his .272 batting average on balls in play was 25 points under his career average, but there’s no denying he looked better working with A.J. Ellis, and if we’re looking at that season as a whole (which is probably the best way of looking at it) he put up the second lowest FIP of his entire career, and his lowest since 2010 when he was worth 4.0 fWAR.
But regardless of what he ends up being, the point is in 1175.1 career innings, he’s been a solid number 3 starter who goes out there, gives you close to 6 innings every single time out there, and if you can slot Chad Billingsley at the bottom of the rotation, rely on him sparingly as the 5th starter, eventually the 4th starter once his workload picks up, have him give you very valuable innings (don’t look now, but he also has a very affordable option of 14 million coming up), then it’d be a massive upgrade to a team relying on Dan Haren and Josh Beckett to anchor the bottom of the rotation.