Billingsley deal makes sense for both sides

About 14 months ago, I wrote this post on Dodger Thoughts: “What Justin Verlander’s new contract could mean for Chad Billingsley and the Dodgers.”

Justin Verlander signed a contract extension with the Tigers on Wednesday that amounts to $80 million over five years.

Verlander is 17 months older than Chad Billingsley and made his major-league debut 49 weeks before the Dodger righty (though Verlander pitched only 11 1/3 innings that year). A comparison of the two since they became full-fledged major-leaguers:

Verlander Billingsley
Year IP K/9 ERA+ IP K/9 ERA+
2006 186 6.0 126 90 5.9 118
2007 201 2/3 8.2 125 147 8.6 134
2008 201 7.3 93 200 2/3 9 133
2009 240 10.1 133 196 1/3 8.2 98

Verlander had an off year in 2008, but came back with his best season ever. His off year was arguably worse or at least little better than Billingsley’s off year in 2009. Billingsley outperformed Verlander two years running in adjusted ERA, though he didn’t pitch as many innings. The best season either pitcher had before last year was Billingsley’s 2008. And again, Billingsley is more than a year younger.

Before the 2009 season, it’s hard to see how anyone would have valued Verlander much more than Billingsley. It’s not as if Verlander had any postseason success to make up for his 2008 problems.

Billingsley obviously needs to show this year that he can bounce back from his disappointing second half (interestingly, both he and Verlander had first-half ERAs of 3.38 last season, though Verlander’s 3.38 was worth a little more because of league and park adjustments). But it’s hardly far-fetched that Billingsley will. And if he does, he will set himself up for a mighty nice deal – if not before he becomes a free agent in November 2012, then certainly after. …


Billinglsey didn’t have a 2010 to match Verlander’s 2009, but he did pitch well enough to earn a multiyear contract extension that means he will earns $40-odd million over the next four years. Dave Cameron of Fangraphs thinks the Dodgers got a bargain, and maybe that’s so – the career adjusted ERAs of the two pitchers are nearly identical now – but the dollars take into account that both Billingsley’s 2009-10 seasons didn’t live up to 2008. Billingsley gets a whole mess of security, and the Dodgers get a pitcher that should be good, maybe even great.  Both sides have reason to be happy.

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