Apologies for interrupting the well-deserved lovefest over Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw, and Kenley Jansen (and the freakshow that is Eugenio Velez‘ march towards futility), but let’s take a break to check in on another topic for the moment: Chad Billingsley‘s final start of an uneven season.
Billingsley’s given us a lot to worry about this season, as his K/9 rate has fallen for the third year in a row as his BB/9 rate is up over last season, and he’s run off a string of high-pitch count, low-satisfaction starts in the last month as his velocity has dropped. He’s been claiming that it’s “mechanical issues“, rather than any injury, and that’s something we’ll need to look into deeper in the offseason, particularly since his second half (.764 OPS against, 1.53 K/BB) has been clearly worse than his first half (.711 OPS, 2.04 K/BB). But he did bounce back to allow just one earned runs over five against the Pirates last week, which was both encouraging and slightly disappointing that he couldn’t go further in a 15-1 victory, and it’s hardly like his season has been a John Lackey-eqsue disaster – his 3.81 FIP is 29th in the National League, ahead of Hiroki Kuroda and Wandy Rodriguez.
Billingsley has somehow made it through the entire season without pitching in San Diego, though he did hold the Padres scoreless over eight innings in Dodger Stadium on July 8. (Yes, he allowed five walks that day, but two were intentional.)
One generally meaningless start in a game between two non-contenders really shouldn’t hold that much importance, and maybe it doesn’t. But a solid start to finish off 2011 would do a lot towards helping our outlook on Billingsley headed into the winter.