There are a lot of great pitchers in the game today who are 25-years-old and younger: Tim Lincecum, Zack Greinke, Felix Hernandez and Chad Billingsley come to mind. What is amazing is that at such a young age, all these pitchers are considered the ace of their respective staffs.
With so much responsibility put on their shoulders (literally), it’s not uncommon for young pitchers to go through a slump during the course of the long baseball season.
That is exactly what I think is happening to Los Angeles Dodgers’ ace Chad Billingsley.
Billingsley was roughed up again last night. This time it was by the St Louis Cardinals. Billingsley gave up six runs, an uncharacteristic six walks, and four hits in 5 2/3 innings of work last night.
What made this game frustrating for Dodgers’ fans is that Billingsley was cruising for five innings. For whatever reason, Billingsley imploded in the sixth inning—four walks (two were intentional), two wild pitches, three hits, and six runs.
I have seen this before with another young pitcher—Jon Lester. In many games this year, Lester would be cruising and then all of a sudden just lose it in the fifth or sixth inning. His stuff was still there, but his location was off and by the time he figured it out, it was too late.
Despite Billingsley’s 7.52 ERA in July and his third-ranked 2,225 pitches thrown this year, if I were a Dodgers' fan, I would not be too concerned about my ace. He doesn’t appear hurt; he is just in a pitching slump. It happens to every young pitcher in the game.
Slumps happen at different points of the season. For Lincecum it was April and for Jon Lester it was May. Billingsley will be fine—he is too good not to be.
One last note about the Dodgers. How about Matt Kemp? I thought it was a bad move by Joe Torre to bat Kemp eighth. However, it has worked. Kemp is batting .443 and has an OPS of 1.177 hitting in the eight hole.