Ted Lilly in Los Angeles

By Eriq Gardner //

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In his 12-season career, Ted Lilly has played for six teams, but no home environment marks a better fit for the veteran pitcher than Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.
Traded there last week, Lilly brings with him nice surface stats, including an ERA of 3.56 and a 1.09 WHIP. However, as noted here in June, Lilly has been getting rather lucky this season, as his strikeout rate has fallen to a career low (6.82 K/9 IP).
Whiffing fewer batters means putting more balls in play. For Lilly, that’s potentially disastrous. Nearly 52% of balls hit off Lilly are flyballs. Typically, that translates to a lot of home runs allowed. In Lilly’s case, he’s giving up 1.45 HRs per nine innings — a poisonous rate for an ordinary pitcher.
However, when Lilly has given up a home run this season, he’s been fortunate enough to survive without too much harm to his ERA. Of the 20 HRs that Lilly has given up this season, 11 have come with the bases empty and seven of come with only one man on base. Thanks to being both good (2.1 BB/9 IP) and lucky (.252 BABIP), Lilly’s opponents haven’t been clogging the bases at a frequent enough rate to hang him when he gives up the long ball.
Playing for Chicago, Lilly was a primary candidate for significant regression, as his FIP and xFIP (measures which run along the same scale as ERA, but strip out luck, park factors and other variables) are nearly a full run higher than his ERA.
A move to Los Angeles offers some amnesty from the expected regression. Wrigley Field boosts HRs by right-handed batters by five percent whereas Dodger Stadium depresses HRs by right-handed batters by eight percent. About 85% of home runs off Lilly have come from right-handed batters in his career. Moreover, Dodger Stadium boosts strikeouts by about seven percent. 

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In sum, Lilly’s flyball tendencies and dwindling ability to overpower batters with strikeouts won’t cause nearly as much trouble in friendly Los Angeles. And he could also get help in another important way.
Remarkably, despite a wonderful ERA this season, Lilly had only three wins in 2010 playing for the Chicago Cubs. His former club offered the fourth-worst run support in the National League. According to statistics kept by Baseball Prospectus, Lilly would have gotten 10 wins playing with an average offense.
On Tuesday, Lilly picked up his fourth win of the season, perhaps some cause for optimism for Lilly’s fantasy owners who have been been both lucky and unlucky with Lilly this season.
For more on starting pitchers, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Front Office

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