Chad Billingsley – Roy Smith

This space today is a kind of a follow up to last week when I commented on the stellar pitching of Greg Maddux and Jason Schmidt. The recurring theme in both of their performances that night was that they “attacked the zone.” Both veteran pitchers stand in contrast to what Chad Billingsley is going through right now. The thing to remember however, is that what Chad is experiencing is the rule, not the exception. 

Chad has outstanding stuff. He has a 97 MPH fastball, a sharp breaking curve, a slider and a change up. When he throws strikes, he has shown that he can get Major League hitters out. What has happened is that he has run up high pitch counts and has struggled getting past the sixth inning. This is common for young pitchers. What was fouled off or swung through in Triple-A and Double-A is now sometimes taken or hit hard. What was a 1-2 count in Triple-A often becomes 2-1 in the big leagues. The adjustment to the increased discipline of Major League hitters can be difficult. The instinct is to try to do more. Sometimes young pitchers judge their outings by how many times they miss the bat or strike hitters out. Chad has stated himself that he needs to trust his stuff and be in the zone better. It is only through experience that a young pitcher learns these things.

One of the best pieces of advice that I ever received came from my Triple-A manager Doc Edwards. I had spent the year in Triple-A in 1983 and walked about 4.5 men per nine innings. During Spring Training the following year, Doc suggested that I start pretending that two balls are three balls. In other words, make something happen at the two-ball count rather than pick and risk walking the hitter. I started to use that strategy and cut my walks in half, leading to a June call up. What Doc’s words made me become was more aggressive and less apt to beat myself. I found that if I located my fast ball well, that good things would happen. He also told me not to be concerned with style points — that a line drive out was still an out and was much better than a walk. He also added that I wasn’t good enough to concern myself with style. He was right on all counts.      

I think we have seen the gradual maturation process of Jonathon Broxton this year as an example. Late last year and early this year, he had to find out what he could and could not get away with. Gradually, we have seen a more efficient pitcher emerge.

Often you will hear a pitching coach tell a young pitcher to stop trying to miss the bat. What he is saying is don’t try to make the perfect pitch all the time. One of the best ways of looking at this I have ever heard came from the great left-hander Steve Carlton, who was also my teammate for a short time with the Twins. Lefty spoke of pitching as an accelerated game of catch between himself and the catcher. As he delivered his pitch, Steve eliminated the bat from his conscious. He focused on hitting the glove and executing his pitch. If he did that, he reasoned, good things would happen more often than not.

Chad Billingsley showed last week against the Marlins and in very impressive flashes most other starts, what he can do when he is consistently in the zone. He just needs time to test the waters. I had a guy when I was with the Pirates who was very much like Chad is as a young pitcher. His name was Jason Schmidt. 

12 Comments

I have not seen every one of Chad’s games but I don’t think he “has a 97mph fastball” maybe he CAN throw 97, but hes ususaly in the 90-94 range. Maybe I missed all the good ones? 91 is what I seem to always see when he breaks out the cheese. Broxton has a 97mph fastball, thats for sure. I think both are going to be pretty good.

i don’t really comment when you speak Mr. Smith, but i trully love reading you’re thoughts.

I agree about the 97mph fastball comment. I haven’t seen Chad throw 97 all year and I’ve watched everyone of his starts. He might be compensating velocity for trying to locate it, but he has been consistently in the 91-94 range touching 95-96 sometimes.

Although I do think if he is allowed to let it fly for an inning like Broxton is allowed to, I think we would see that 97mph fastball from Chad.

Bills will get better ,all he needs is time and some more experience.

Glad to see we’re on the same page Roy. I posted this the day before yours:

“Billingsley pitched well enough to have won the game, but didn’t get any run support. He still needs to work on his pitch count, getting deeper into his starts, and stop trying to be so perfect with his target. He can still be a positive factor for the teams’ push to the post-season.” : )

Little off the subject of Chad, just wondering if anyone can help with this one. Andre’s dad is french and I also heard that his mother was mexican, does anyone no what part of mexico she is from.?

california, My family and I have sat next to them, but I really couldn’t say what their nationally is. They seem very friendly though and very proud of Andre !! If his wife is who we think she is, she’s very pregnant !!
Go Dodgers !!

californiaautorebuilder@hotmail.com

WHAT!? He’s half Mexican!! i didn’t know that.

yes a couple of weeks ago Steve Lyons interviewed him before the game, and that’s when I heard it. His dad is french and his mom is mexican. I think that would be pretty cool. The kid is a stud, hope he stays consistent the whole season, he would be the 18th ROY. For the dodgers of course.

I think Chad’s game the other night was excellent. A lot of the balls that were called on the corner were amazing pitches, but the ump had one of the tighter strike zones I have seen in awhile. I was impressed that Chad didn’t show his frustration on the mound like some of our vets might have. He is getting better with every outing and it is exciting to watch.

Sounds like you received some wise and memorable advice in the past–thanks for that trip down memory lane. I, for one, can remember the excitement of watching you pitch from the uncomfortable benches of the minor league stands to the clean Bronx air in the nose bleed section at Yankee Stadium.

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