Chad Billingsley may have terrified us all with two disastrous starts in a row on the heel’s of last year’s second-half collapse, but its days like today that remind us why you keep sending him out there as long as you possibly can. Billingsley was nearly perfect in allowing just 1 run over 6 innings, walking only 2 while striking out 5. Even better, he was pretty economical in doing it, using just 86 pitches. Even better than that, when faced with a tough jam in the 6th inning (the frame which is always his own personal hell) after a double and an intentional walk, he got Josh Willingham to ground out and end the threat.
Since he was pitching so well and was still at a reasonable pitch count, you could have made the argument that he should have started the 7th to help out the tired Dodger bullpen, but I’m actually okay with the choice that was made. At this point, the most important thing is Billingsley’s confidence, and if you can take him out while feeling great about his performance rather than trying to push your luck and risk him coming out on a bad note, I’m fine with that. Besides, he came up with a man on in the top of the 7th, and at that point it’s more important to try to get that tying run in, though Andre Ethier merely managed to hit into an inning-ending double play.
With Vicente Padilla on the disabled list, it’s largely irrelevant since the team is having a hard enough time just replacing him in the rotation, but it’s important to remember why it’s worth it to stick with Billingsley through his troubles. When he’s right, he can be one of the best in the game, and no one who could theoretically replace him can compare to his potential. With starting pitching largely being what’s holding back the club this year, the entire season may depend on Billingsley getting his head back together, and cutting bait with him just means giving up on his massive potential in favor of guys who just aren’t as good. That doesn’t excuse him if he can’t string a few good starts together, of course, but today was a great step in that direction.
Of course, since the Dodgers couldn’t get anything going against Scott Olsen, even after three straight singles in the first, Billingsley left the game on the hook to be the losing pitcher. So in the game in which he gave up 1 run, he’s the loser. Yet in the previous two games, when he allowed 13 runs (10 earned) in 8.2 IP, he didn’t get the loss in either. Say it with me again, friends: “Wins and losses are completely irrelevant for pitchers.”
Why is Garret Anderson getting starts again? After striking out three times today while going 0-4, he’s now hitting .143 with a .184 OBP, and it’s not like he’s helping you out in the field either. It’s nice that he ran into that pinch-hit homer the other day, but this experiment clearly isn’t working, just as we predicted it wouldn’t before the season. It’s time to cut the cord and let Xavier Paul play every day until Manny comes back, and then be Manny’s defensive caddy/lefty bench bat afterwards. If not Paul in left field, I’d even give some thought to putting Casey Blake out there (240 games of OF experience) and letting Ronnie Belliard play at 3B, just to keep Belliard’s bat in the lineup. Anything but Anderson.