Sunday, December 16, 2007

Player Profile: Chad Billingsley

Here's a look at a rising young starter, Chad Billingsley.

Billingsley was a 1st round draft pick in 2003 (24th overall) straight out of Defiance High School in Defiance, Ohio. He was a 2nd team High School All-American pitcher for both 2002 and 2003.

As an 18-year-old kid pitching for the Ogden Raptors in the Rookie Pioneer League in 2003, he was 5-4 with a 2.83 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and 62 K's in 54 innings. Not a bad debut year.

The next 2 years he split between Single A Vero Beach and Double A Jacksonville. In 2004, pitching for Vero Beach, he was 7-4, 2.35 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, and 111 K's in 92 innings. Making his last 8 starts of the year for Jacksonville, he was 4-0, 2.98 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, and 47 K's in 42.1 innings.

In 2006, finally at the legal drinking age, he had his first taste of major league action. After going 6-3 for 13 starts in Triple A Las Vegas, he was called up to LA. On June 15 in San Diego, he made his big league debut, going 5.1 innings, giving up 2 runs and K'ing 3, earning a no-decision in the 7-3 win. He went on to make 16 starts, going 7-4, 3.80 ERA, 1.67 WHIP (ouch), and 59 K's in 90 innings.

The 2007 season marked his first year with LA full-time, where he would split time between starting and the bullpen. The injuries of Jason Schmidt and Randy Wolf allowed him to earn his starting job back. He appeared in 23 games out of the 'pen before making his first start June 21 In Toronto, earning a no-decision after giving up 2 runs in 3.2 innings. He went on to make 20 starts, compiling a nice 12-5 record, 3.31 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, and 141 K's in 147 innings.

This upcoming season, he is projected to be a 3-4 starter. The signing of Hiroki Kuroda could push him down to #4, but he'll still go into the season as a starter, and not a guy that could go in between like last year. His strong record and ERA should prove once and for all that he can be relied upon to make quality starts.

The biggest problem he's faced in the past has been walks. In his 20 starts last year, he only had 7 games in which he walked less than 3, and he was 4-1 in those games. He can still strike out plenty of guys, probably not as much as he did per inning in the minors, but enough to be considered a power pitcher. Expecting between 5-8 K's a game should be accurate.

For Bill's to win this year, the formula is simple - throw more strikes, limit the pitch count to get deep into games, and let his stuff do the work for him. He'll only be 23 when the season starts, so he'll be one of those young guns that fantasy lovers will aim for. If he can be more under control this year, I see big things happening for him.

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