If you’ve been reading this site for any length of time, you know I’ve never thought all that much of Ted Lilly, at least since his outstanding start to his Dodger career in 2010. That was especially true in 2012, where all of the “best start of his career!” hysteria was clearly overshadowed by peripherals that were absolutely headed in the wrong direction. When he injured his shoulder and missed most of the year, it wasn’t “a good season being interrupted” as some would have you believe; it was a way for him to miss the regression we all knew was coming.
Now Lilly’s another year older and coming off another arm surgery, and he likely would have been cut or traded before throwing a single pitch for the Dodgers if not for the undying evil that is Carlos Quentin. Remember, the Dodgers basically forced him on that rehab stint not because he was injured, but because they didn’t feel he could get big league hitters out; that trip to the disabled list was simply a way to buy time in case something awful happened.
Well, something awful did happen, and then it happened again, and then it happened again, so Lilly was forced into duty. He was surprisingly decent in that first outing against the Mets, though we’ll note that it’s the Mets, so he earned another chance.
Tonight he took that chance, and he proved that it’s really, really difficult to pitch with a fork sticking squarely out of your back. Here’s how Lilly’s first four batters went: homer, double, single, homer. Before the fans had even sat down, the Dodgers were down 4-0, and it didn’t get better from there. He finally got an out on Michael Cuddyer‘s flyout, but even that took Matt Kemp nearly to the warning track, and when Lilly came back out for the second, he loaded the bases before wriggling out of trouble. In the third, he loaded the bases yet again, allowing a run to score on a bases-loaded walk to Dexter Fowler.
And that was it. Juan Uribe hit for him in the bottom of the inning, and Lilly’s line reflected 10 baserunners over three innings, and five runs — only four earned, but that was because of his own error. Not once did he get a fastball over 87, and only four times did he even get that high. As Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register noted, at one point Lilly had three of four pitches fail to break 70 MPH. Lilly, of course, was never noted for his velocity, but that also means that losing even part of it could have dire consequences. Tonight, we saw that.
Maybe he’s still injured, and maybe he’s not. I don’t know. But this isn’t overreaction to one bad start, because he’s been declining for years. His K/9, for example, 2008-12: 8.09, 7.68, 7.71, 7.38, 5.73. Last year also saw the highest BB/9 he’s had in years, and we all know about his homer troubles.
Ted Lilly is, I’m sad to say, done — done to the extent I haven’t seen since Jason Schmidt was trying to make it back. Like with Schmidt, we take no joy in this, because it’s not fun to watch a pitcher who had been a productive player for more than a decade fall off a cliff like this. But here we are, and he simply cannot start for the Dodgers ever again. With an off day on Thursday, Chris Capuano making what may need to be his only rehab start on Wednesday, and Matt Magill still on the roster, he might never need to. Let’s hope that’s how it turns out.