2015 Phillies Report Card: Chad Billingsley
The Phillies entered the 2015 season with a dearth of starting rotation depth and thus no reason not to gamble on a starting pitcher or two. And so that’s what they did in signing Aaron Harang and Chad Billingsley in January. The hope was that Billingsley would be able to recover from last year’s flexor tendon surgery and turn in a healthy and productive season on a one-year, $1.5 million contract, which would allow the Phillies to trade him to a contending team at the July 31 trade deadline.
Billingsley was only able to make three starts including his season debut on May 5 — his first start since April 15, 2013. After holding the Diamondbacks to two runs in six innings on May 15, he landed back on the disabled list with a Grade 2 lat strain.
Billingsley returned on July 2, but he would last only four more starts before suffering a season-ending elbow injury. In total, he made seven starts, averaging about $215,000 per start. He finished with a 5.84 ERA and a 15/8 K/BB ratio over 34 innings. ERA retrodictors still painted his effort as the worst of the 31-year-old’s career.
Fortunately for the Phillies, the gamble was not of the high-risk variety. His return to the disabled list in July also helped speed up the promotion of pitching prospect Aaron Nola, so those who are feeling generous can assign a little credit on that to Billingsley. The right-hander will have his elbow examined in December, after which he will evaluate whether to continue his playing career or not. If Billingsley does decide to continue pitching, it will be as a reliever.
It would be easy to give Billingsley an F, but I find it hard to fault a player for suffering an injury when the team knew full well that he was on his way back from elbow surgery and they would be lucky to get 20 starts at a 4.50 ERA clip from him. His $1.5 million salary represented only one percent of their nearly $147 million payroll, and the Phillies didn’t miss out on anything by failing to trade him.