Career Profile: Chad Billingsley, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Per reader request, here is a Career Profile for Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Chad Billingsley.
Chad Billingsley was drafted by the Dodgers in the first round in 2003, 24th overall, out of high school in Defiance, Ohio. He was well-known to scouts and could have gone several spots higher if not for a somewhat erratic spring, and overblown concerns that he was maxed-out physically. He looked excellent in rookie ball, posting a 2.83 ERA with a 62/15 K/BB in 54 innings for Ogden in the Pioneer League, showing a 90-95 MPH fastball, topping out at 97, along with a curveball, slider, and changeup. I gave him a Grade B entering '04.
The Dodgers sent Billingsley to Vero Beach in the Florida State League to begin '04, where he posted a 2.35 ERA with a 111/49 K/BB in 92 innings with a mere 68 hits allowed. Promoted to Double-A Jacksonville (keep in mind that he was just 20 at this point), he posted a 2.98 ERA with a 47/22 K/BB in 42 innings with 32 hits allowed. He continued to draw raves for his power stuff and strong mound presence. I was highly impressed and gave him a Grade A-, ranked as the Number Four pitching prospect in baseball.
Billingsley returned to Jacksonville in '05 and went 13-6, 3.51 in 146 innings with a 162/50 K/BB with just 116 hits allowed. Again, his K/IP and H/IP was quite impressive, and scouting reports continued to describe him as a future rotation anchor. The only real weakness was the need for a more refined changeup, but I gave him another Grade A- and again ranked him as the Number Four pitching prospect.
Billingsley split 2006 between Triple-A Las Vegas (6-3, 3.95 ERA, 78/32 K/BB in 71 IP, 57 hits) and Los Angeles (7-4, 3.80 in 18 games, 16 starts, 59/58 K/BB in 90 IP, 92 hits). He held his own in the majors, though his K/BB ratio was poor and he obviously needed to improve his control. He split '07 between the rotation and bullpen (3.31 ERA, 141/64 K/BB in 147 IP, 131 hits), then moved into the rotation fulltime in '08 and has been there ever since.
In 920 career innings, Billingsley is 65-47 (.580), with a 3.65 ERA, 112 ERA+, 3.65 FIP, 3.93 xFIP, with a 837/397 K/BB and 863 hits allowed. His WAR is 16.5. Thus far, 2008 (3.14 ERA, 3.35 FIP, ERA +133, 4.4 WAR) and 2010 (3.57 ERA, 3.07 FIP, 4.6 WAR) have been his two best seasons. Although he has a higher 4.48 ERA this year, his FIP (3.35) and xFIP (3.56) are in line with his previous standards and I think it's just a matter of bad luck this year; his BABIP at .338 is the highest of his career. He has a 1.6 WAR so far this year.
Billingsley has lost a hair of velocity over the last four years, his fastball dropping just a bit to 91.5 MPH average from 92.5 in 2007. He uses his curveball much less now (2.2% this year compared to 22% in 2009) according to pitch f/x.
What does the future hold? The list of statistically comparable pitchers through age 25 is Jake Peavy, Steve Busby, John Smoltz, Andy Benes, Ramon Martinez, Ray Culp, Jose Rijo, Don Wilson, Sid Fernandez, and Stan Williams. Smoltz had a very long career of course, though he switched to the closer role in mid-career. We don't know what will happen with Peavy, but everyone else on this list faded quickly after age 30.
The Baseball Prospectus comps include Andy Benes-1995, John Smoltz-1994, Freddy Garcia-2004, Justin Verlander-2010, Kevin Milwood-2002, and Mark Gubicza-1990. Interesting that Benes and Smoltz both show up again, while Gubicza fits in with the "fades after 30" theme.
Although Billingsley hasn't quite turned into a big-time ace, he's been a very solid pitcher, consistently above average.