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Editor’s Note: This is the first post written by Blake Kobashigawa. I have played in a fantasy league with Blake for seven years. Blake recently moved to New York, but has spent most of his life in Los Angeles. He has coached baseball at the high school level and got me tickets to Games 4 and 5 of the 2004 ALCS. I’m still repaying the debt. He will be contributing to FBHS on a part-time basis.

Key Stats: Chad Billingsley has had a very interesting career arch. Hailed as the franchise savior after his 2008 season, Chad had a poor 2009. However, in 2010, safely shielded from the expectations of a staff ace by the new savior, Clayton Kershaw, Billingsley settled down:

2008: 16 wins, 32 GS, 200.2 IP, 3.14 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 201 Ks, 2.51 SO/BB
2009: 12 wins, 32 GS, 196.1 IP, 4.03 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 179 Ks, 2.08 SO/BB
2010: 12 wins, 31 GS, 191.2 IP, 3.57 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 171 K, 2.48 SO/BB

The key stat here is consistency. Despite the differentials in wins and ERA from his best season in 2008, he has stayed relatively consistent with games started, innings pitched, wins, and WHIP. His 2009 season seems to be the outlier, primarily because opponents were slugging slightly better against him than previous years.

The from his days as a prospect in the Dodgers system, the expectations for Billingsley were always 22 wins, a sub-2.50 ERA and leading a team to the pennant. While this is still possible (except for the Dodgers winning the pennant – as a Dodger fan, I know that will never happen again), I think expectations should be changed to that of a dependable, workhorse pitcher.

Skeptics Say: While Chad gave up a career-low 8 long balls last year, he has been extremely homer-prone his entire career. The 8 jacks given up in his 2010 season were his lowest allowed in a full season by 6. However, it is important to note that Billingsley gave up 36 doubles last year, only one less than his career high 37 the year previous. Those balls easily could turn into homers next season. I would fully expect that he will probably revert back to giving up between 13-18 homers in the 2011 season to raise his ERA a few ticks.

Peer Comparison: Baseball-reference.com has Chad most favorably compared with the following pitchers statistically over the past 5 seasons:

Chad Billingsley 59 wins, 3.55 ERA, 131 GS, 825.7 IP, 751 K
Jered Weaver 64 wins, 3.55 ERA, 144 GS, 896.0 IP, 779 K
Ubaldo Jimenez 50 wins, 3.52 ERA, 116 GS, 728.0 IP, 655 K
Jon Lester 61 Wins, 3.55 ERA 123 GS, 766.0 IP, 712 K

Billingsley compares very well statistically against three pitchers who ranked in the top 5 of Cy Young voting this year. However, looking at it past the numbers and in a practical baseball sense, I see him best compared to Matt Garza (recently profiled in the countdown at number 126).

42 wins, 3.97 ERA, 118 GS, 725.3 IP, 572 K

While Chad’s stats are much better than Garza’s (he is much more homer-prone than Billingsley; 86 to 61), they are very similar – young, durable pitchers, who could throw complete game shutouts at any given start (or no-hitters, in Garza’s case), but also could give up an awful lot of dingers. Fantasy Hot Stove guru Mark expected that Garza would finish with 13 wins 3.86 ERA 1.25 WHIP 158 K in 210 innings, which is (spoiler alert!) right around the neighborhood I predict Billingsley to land.

Team Outlook: Chad’s home/road splits weren’t nearly as consistent as his overall numbers may seem. Like his general career stats, they actually sway deeply in favor of his starts away from Chavez Ravine:

Home: 7 Wins, 14 GS, 92.1 IP, 4.29 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 81 SO, 2.61 SO/BB
Away: 5 wins, 16 GS, 99.1 IP, 2.90 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 90 SO, 2.37 SO/BB

This most likely has something to do with a third of his starts being against NL West teams, notorious for enormous Coors Field, pitcher’s havens Petco Park and AT&T Park, as well as the free-swinger’s alley in Chase Field. Chad’s stats playing in NL West ballparks last year were ridiculous:

3-3, 10 starts, 62.1 IP, 2.02 ERA, 59 K

While his wins did not equal the way he pitched, these numbers are obviously a result of the lack of offense generated by these slugging juggernauts. Through the early offseason, none of these teams have gotten any better offensively and I could expect these same type of numbers next year.

However, a lot of things have to go right to give Billinglsey more wins. They are depending on production of new second baseman Juan Uribe, big bounce back years from Andre Ethier and Matty “Franchise” Kemp, an unnamed new left fielder and an aging left side of the infield in Casey Blake and Rafael Furcal. Furthermore, the team has to figure out what ailed Jon Broxton in the second half, as well as hope that Hong-Chi Kuo’s arm doesn’t fly off into the stands of Dodger Stadium in order to have less blown saves. My fan-oriented pessimism of the Dodgers not withstanding, I don’t see all these things coming true, and I would peg Chad for somewhere between 10 and 14 wins.

What They’re Saying: Yahoo: #27 Starting Pitcher & #115 Overall; Couch Managers, #209 Overall, Tristan Cockroft of ESPN.com: #30 SP, CBS Sportsline: #32 SP, Mock Draft Central: #74 Overall

Projection: Let’s all just love Chad for who he is; a solid number two or three starter who is going to give you a ton of innings, 10-15 wins, a bunch of Ks and a solid, but unspectacular ERA and WHIP.
13 wins, 3.70 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 185 Ks in 208 innings.

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