The Cubs are all but out of the race and should be selling heading into the deadline. Ted Lilly is a 34 year old southpaw who will soon reach free agency. His contract calls for something like $6 million to be paid from now on out. In the midst of posting his worst fielding independent pitching numbers since his 2004-2006 days as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays, the Cubs face an interesting dilemma.
Eddie Bajek’s replication of the Elias Rankings have Lilly qualifying for Type-A status; meaning if the Cubs were to offer arbitration to Lilly, and he were to decline (hence testing free agency), they would receive two draft picks with location depending on 1) the signing team’s record among the league, and 2) the signing team’s other moves. Type-A status carries with it a projected value of $5 million thanks to those draft picks, which suggests Lilly all but pays for himself with that compensation ranking.
The problem is that Lilly isn’t guaranteed Type-A status. Bajek has done yeoman’s work and his rankings suggest that Lilly is only a borderline Type-A. The rankings weigh stats like wins, win percentage, and ERA, three things Lilly doesn’t have going for him, particularly the wins metric. You see, as Joe Posnanski pointed out here, to qualify for a win the pitcher needs to exit with the lead, which is a problem when your team never scores while you’re in the game, and that’s the case for Lilly.
Among all qualified starting pitchers Lilly has the lowest run support at a tick more than 2.40. Only three other starters have RS/9 less than 3; those being Dallas Braden (2.59), Roy Oswalt (2.70), and Felipe Paulino (2.93). (For those curious, the flipside includes Phil Hughes (8.29), Nick Blackburn (7.14), and Kevin Correia (6.73).) Lilly’s ERA sits at 4.08, suggesting that he’s not going to be able to win many games and he’s going to lose a fair share. Naturally, Lilly is 3-8 after 15 starts. In his three other seasons with the Cubs he took the loss 8, 9, and 9 times. He’s going to blow those totals away this year at this pace.
The discrepancy seems unlikely to change since the Cubs will soon shift from surrounding Lilly with their 24 other players who present the best collective chance at victory to the other 24 players who have a future in Chicago with value to the Cubs being higher than value to the rest of the league. Presumably the teams have a better grasp on the rankings game than we do, so if Lilly’s moved, don’t be shocked. If he’s kept, don’t be too shocked either.
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