2.2 IP 20.25 ERA 6.47 FIP 10.13 K/9 13.50 BB/9 -0.1 fWAR (inc.)
2012 in brief: Minor league pitcher of the year dominated in Albuquerque but never saw more than token September time in Los Angeles.
2013 status: Could be minor-league depth or trade bait, but won’t find room in an overstuffed Dodger rotation barring total disaster.
Poor, poor John Ely. After a wonderful season in the minors, he was given merely 2.2 big league innings this year… and picked up two losses for his trouble.
Of course, he never really had a chance. When Ted Lilly went down, Nathan Eovaldi was the clear next-in-line, a role he filled capably for 10 starts before being traded to Miami. By the time the Dodgers even needed an extra starter beyond that, when Chad Billingsley‘s arm woes forced him to miss a start on July 17, half the season was already gone. But it wasn’t Ely who got the call, it was Stephen Fife. While Ely was in the midst of a great season for the Isotopes, it made some small amount of sense:
As we expected, Chad Billingsley was placed on the 15-day disabled list with right elbow soreness, and Stephen Fife was recalled to make his major league debut. I know you would have all preferred John Ely, and I would have too, given that he’s had (brief) major league success before and is having a surprisingly good season in Albuquerque. No, Ely’s not on the 40-man roster while Fife is, but given that Todd Coffey can easily be shifted to the 60-day DL, opening up a spot shouldn’t be hard. So what gives, right?
Well, that was my thinking at first, but in the wonderful world of roster arithmetic, it makes sense. Billingsley reportedly didn’t even want to miss one start and – in theory, anyway – could be back as soon as his 15 days are up. Given that it’s already been 10 days since he pitched, prior to the All-Star break, and since the Dodgers have a day off on Thursday, he could potentially be back early next week having missed only one turn; in fact, Don Mattingly has already said that he plans to start Billingsley on Monday. That being the case, a likely scenario is that Fife pitches tonight, gets shipped out tomorrow for Michael Antonini no matter how well he does, Antonini sits around for a few days and once again doesn’t get into a game, and then Billingsley takes his place next week. While you could get Ely on the 40-man roster easily, you’d then have to keep him on it unless you wanted to DFA him, and if the Dodgers are going to make as many moves as we think they will in the next two weeks, you probably don’t want Ely and Fife both holding down spots. So I get it, I suppose.
Fife surprisingly pitched well enough to earn a few more starts, and by the time Billingsley was lost for good, Josh Beckett & Joe Blanton were in the mix, leaving Ely to serve as expanded-roster depth for two outings in September – neither of which went well. Over parts of three seasons, Ely is now 4-13 with a 5.70 ERA, and while you know I put little stock in either of those metrics… damn.
Of course, that’s selling him a little bit short, because Ely did put together an outstanding season for the Isotopes, one which made him the Dodger minor league pitcher of the year.
Next season, we’ll be three years removed from Elymania with just Ely having received just 15.1 innings in the bigs. A major league career for Ely seems further away than ever, and it’s not likely to be in Los Angeles.