Ted Lilly signs with the LA Dodgers

In non-playoff baseball news, Ted Lilly signed a contract extension with the Dodgers, worth $33.5mil over three years.

It’s too early to know what the cost of 1 WAR will be this upcoming season, but lets estimate it at $4.5mil. Lilly is coming off a 2.3 WAR season, and has posted a WAR above 2 every season going back to 2003, with the exception of a shortened 2005 campaign. So Lilly has been a reliably average to above average pitcher the past several seasons. He will be staying in a pitchers park and the NL West, a division currently known for its light hitting teams compared to the rest of baseball. However, Lilly will be 35 years old next season, and 37 years old when the deal is up. So lets examine whether its a fair contract, and whether its a worthwhile contract for the Dodgers.

Lilly finished 2010 with a 4.27 FIP and 4.16 xFIP over 193 innings pitched. His K/9 was 7.71, his BB/9 was 2.04, and his HR/9 was poor 1.49. His K and BB rates are in line or better than his career norm, but he gave up more homers than usual. The reason could be contributed to his career low GB% which was 29.5% and a FB% over 50%. Pitching in Dodger Stadium compared to Wrigley Field might help that, but Lilly has always been prone to the long ball.

His fastball velocity hasn’t dipped noticeably and the only change in his pitch values is his slider. Per 100 pitches, his slider has been worth 0.87, but in 2010 it dropped to -2.30 and was his worst pitch, which is even worse when you consider he threw the pitch 20.5% of the time in 2010. Is his slider on the decline, or was it an off-year?

Either way, lets project Lilly to throw 200 innings next season and be worth 2.5 WAR. Decreasing that by 0.5 each season and over the contract his total WAR would be 6.0 WAR. At $4.5mil per win, that’s a total dollar value of $27mil. Eeesh, so the Dodgers come out in the red.Even if he pitches better than my projections, he won’t exactly give the Dodgers a surplus of value.

Moreover, the Dodgers aren’t a very good team right now. They are kind of old, don’t have a great system, and their ownership is a mess. I highly doubt the Dodgers will be contenders in 2011, for sure, and I don’t think they will contend in the years after that as well, but who knows with the NL West. To me, spending $33.5mil on Lilly is a waste. He is an average, 35 year old pitcher. He won’t make a difference between the Dodgers being a playoff team or not. For a team in financial dire because of the ownership issues, spending $33.5mil on an old pitcher is not smart. Put that money towards a younger player who will have a bigger impact, or put that money into the farm system.

For Teddy Lilly, congrats on the payday. For the Dodgers, better luck next time.


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