by Art Morath
on June 22, 2007 @ 16:00:00
Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Jason Schmidt had season-ending surgery on his right shoulder on June 20. The Dodgers have decided to insert 22-year-old reliever Chad Billingsley into Schmidt's spot in the rotation. Billingsley was a first-round pick in 2003, and he is considered one of the Dodgers best young prospects.
This is not the first go-around for Billingsley as a starter. He began 2006 as a starting pitcher for Triple-A Las Vegas. In the middle of June he earned a call-up, and he made 16 starts for the Dodgers. As a starter he was 6-4 with a 3.34 ERA and 1.60 WHIP. Billingsley's main problem was issuing walks. In 86 1/3 innings Billingsley struck out 58, while walking 55. Due to his lack of efficiency, Billingsley would run up his pitch count, forcing Dodgers manager Grady Little to overuse the bullpen. Billingsley averaged just 5 1/3 innings. He ended last season pitching out of the bullpen, and he continued in that role until Schmidt's latest setback. This season he has been an effective setup man for the Dodgers. He is 4-0 with a 3.26 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP.
The 6-foot-1, 245-pound Billingsley throws a mid-90s fastball along with an over-the-top curveball, slider and changeup. The curveball and slider are his best off-speed pitches. The changeup is mediocre. He continued to use all four pitches during his time as a reliever, because he knew that eventually he would be returning to the rotation. Like a lot of power pitchers, he has sometimes struggled with his control. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is much improved this year. He has struck out 42 while walking 16.
Billingsley made his first start of the season on June 21. He faced the Toronto Blue Jays on the road, and he threw 70 pitches in 3 2/3 innings. To ease Billingsley's transition to starting, Little said he would limit Billingsley's pitch count the first couple starts. By the third start Little expects Billingsley to be able to throw 90 to 95 pitches.
Billingsley is definitely worth a look for fantasy owners that were still hanging on to Schmidt. This season he seems to have corrected his problem of getting behind in the count and walking batters. Little says the biggest change with Billingsley has been pitch efficiency, but, in his initial start, Billingsley only threw 41 out of 70 pitches for strikes. The best approach with Billingsley is a wait-and-see approach. The version of Billingsley that throws strikes could be a valuable commodity. If he reverts back to the Billingsley who puts too many runners on base, then there are better options out there.
About Art Morath
Art Morath has been a contributor to KFFL since 2007.
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