Dee Gordon‘s triple was the spark that ignited a Dodger victory yesterday in Philadelphia, but it truly was a team effort which sealed the win. Clayton Kershaw has not been as dominating as last year, and the offense has had to make up for the difference. Although it’s hard to replicate the incredible season Kershaw turned in last year. Unfortunately that Opening Day bout with the flu seemed to knock his schedule out of alignment somewhat. For the most part (excluding this last week of losses), the starting pitching has been great. Yet the one pitcher who has the most to prove to the fans and to himself is Chad Billingsley.
During Chad’s last disappointing start I stopped to think back to what could have stymied his potential. Here’s my hypothesis. In 2008 Bills had a record of 16-10 with a 3.14 ERA which was clearly his best season. Then he broke his leg during the offseason. He slipped on some ice in front of his home in November of ’08. He suffered a broken left fibula-the smaller of the two bones in the shin. He had a plate inserted while the break healed, and he was in a cast for two weeks. The leg that was broken is his landing leg. The following years he settles into mediocrity. 12-11, 12-11, and 11-11 were his records from 2009-2011. Did the leg fracture impact his mechanics? It’s hard to know, but you can’t help to question why he has never pitched to the level that his talent dictates.
We have watched Billingsley pitch some gems over the years. There’s no doubt that he has the athleticism and pitch repertoire to be a top tier hurler. It’s very frustrating to see him flounder out on the mound and not know why. Many fans have tagged Bills as mentally weak. I don’t agree with that theory. When one fails at something they are supposed to excel at, isn’t it normal for there to be a response emotionally or a mental reaction? Perhaps Chad is too much of a perfectionist, and when the game is not unfolding in the way in which he planned or desired, he gets flustered and things unravel quickly. We witnessed Aaron Harang battle those demons his last time out against the Rockies. He stayed calm, and he pitched himself out of a game threatening jam. Perhaps this is a skill not all pitchers possess or one in which they need to acquire.
Rumors have been rampant about Dodger interest in Cole Hamels. Hamels will be a free agent after this season. If the Dodgers go for Hamels, Chad’s place in the rotation won’t be guaranteed. Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang are signed through 2013, and of course Kershaw will soon garner a contract extension. Nathan Eovaldi and Rubby De La Rosa are almost ready to grab spots as well.
Billingsley has not won in 9 starts. Last time out against Milwaukee, Bills allowed four runs over 6
innings. He did strikeout 8 Brewers in the loss. In his career against Philadelphia, Bills has a record of 1-2 with a 3.31 ERA. Many of the Phillies have hit him well, and Ty Wigginton and Hunter Pence each have a homerun on him.
Cliff Lee is still looking for his first win of the season after making 8 starts so far this year. He’s never gone this deep into the season without a win. Against the Dodgers, the lefty is 2-0 with an impressive 0.40 ERA. None of the current Dodgers have mustered much off Lee. Jerry Hairston has one homerun, but he is also batting .105 in his other at bats against Cliff.
Preliminary voting results have also been announced today in New York for the 2012 All-Star Game being held in Kansas City on July 10th. Matt Kemp leads all NL players with 1,952,910 votes. Carlos Beltran and Ryan Braun are also in the top three for NL outfielders. Andre Ethier is in fourth place at the moment (please vote for DRE!). Fans can continue to cast their votes online until June 28th. The rosters will be announced on July 1st. A.J. Ellis is trailing the other NL catchers, and he really needs your vote as well.
First pitch for today’s game will be at 4:05 pm, and the game will be televised on KCAL. Stay tuned for our recap after the conclusion of the game and more draft coverage later tonight.