With the trading deadline only just over a week away and the Chicago Cubs currently sitting 11½ games behind the division-leading Cardinals, it would appear as though the team will go into full out sell mode on the 31st of July.
Among the list of possible trade candidates according to the media is Ted Lilly. Lilly is in the final year of a 4-year contract that is paying him $12-million this season. What many media outlets fail to point out is the fact that Lilly has a partial no-trade clause in his contract, and would potentially have to waive it for any deal to go through. Although, it could probably be assumed that he may waive it in order to make a move to a contending team.
With Lilly’s name on the block, I thought I’d take a look at his performance on the season. Lilly is a two-time All-Star, being selected in his first year with Toronto in 2004 and last year. Lilly has consistently had above average control throughout his career and has had the ability to strike out his opponents, but has always been susceptible to home runs.
Last year we saw Lilly with a career low in HR/9 at 1.1. When compared to his career average of 1.3 it doesn’t seem like much of a difference, but that coincided with the lowest ERA of his career of 3.10. This year, he is allowing 1.5 HR/9, while certainly not a career high for Lilly, when it is combined with his other numbers I start to get a little worried. Lilly’s H/9 is at 8.0, HR/9 at 1.5, BB/9 at 2.1, and K/9 at 6.5 with a K/BB ratio of 3.12. These numbers are less than stellar, and to put things in perspective, the NL averages for this season are as follows: 9.0 H/9, 0.9 HR/9, 3.4 BB/9, 7.2 K/9, 2.11 K/BB.
While Lilly’s numbers are not the best overall, the majority are still better than the league average. The main thing about those numbers that concerns me is the high home run ratio. Though, there may be a good reason for that.
Lilly gas never been a groundball pitcher, as noted by his career 34.1 GB%. He had his best performance in his final year with Toronto in 2006 when he posted a 37.7% groundball rate. But every year since then, we have seen a steady decline in that number. He posted a 33.7% rate in 2007, 33.6% in 2008, 31.9% in 2009, and an amazing 29.4% so far this season. If Lilly can somehow improve upon that, I think he can regain some of his effectiveness.
Another aspect of Lilly’s game that is deteriorating is his velocity. Once again, we have seen a steady decline in the velocity on his fastball since his days with Toronto. In 2006, he was clocked at an average of 89.9 MPH while with the Blue Jays. This was followed up by a 2007 average velocity of 88.4 MPH, 87.4 MPH in 2008, 87.1 MPH in 2009, and now 86.0 MPH in 2010.
One positive aspect about these drops in velocity is that Lilly’s walk rate has been lowered substantially, while his other numbers seem to have gotten worse. This has led me to wonder: who would want to acquire a guy like Lilly for the stretch run? Would he really benefit another team? Where would he fit into another team’s rotation?
We’ve seen Lilly linked to teams such as the Mets, Tigers, Dodgers and possibly the Yankees. Of these four teams, the Tigers are the only ones without a valid left-handed option in their starting rotation. Seeing as how Andrew Oliver is 0-4 with a 7.36 ERA through 5 starts, I don’t really see him as a good option just yet.
With the Yankees and Dodgers, I don’t see Lilly as being much of an upgrade at all but more of an insurance policy should one of their current starters suffer an injury such as the one suffered by Andy Pettitte that should keep him out for the next month. Though, I could see a trade to the Yankees as being a disaster for Lilly seeing as how the New Yankee Stadium is arguably the most hitter friendly park in the Majors. His home runs allowed number could potentially skyrocket.
If Lilly were to head to the Mets or Tigers, I could see slightly different scenarios playing out. With each team, he’d certainly be inserted into the rotation immediately and could even become a #2 starter with Detroit. One thing the Mets have going for them is the fact that Citi Field is a pitcher friendly park, and could reduce the number of home runs allowed by Lilly.
Essentially, I see Lilly as having some value to a contending team. It’s clear that if he is traded, he’ll provide his new team with good control while keeping his walks low but could have some trouble keeping the ball out of the bleachers in hitter friendly parks such as Yankee Stadium.