2011 Retrospective #2: Bruce Billings, RHP
Bruce Billings, a righty reliever who will turn 26 in a little over a month, faced the second-fewest batters of any A's pitcher this season, so he's the subject of our second retrospective. Like Neil Wagner, Billings was acquired by Oakland mid-season, coming over from Colorado in the Mark Ellis trade. Since Eliezer Mesa, a 22-year-old who spent his entire year not hitting at all in Modesto, was the other part of the trade, it looks like Billings is what the A's got.
Billings was drafted twice from San Diego State, the first time in the 31st round by the Phillies, and the following year in the 30th round by the aforementioned Rockies. Also like Wagner, Billings never cracked a Colorado top thirty list in Baseball America, though he was listed as the top unranked right-handed starting pitcher on the Rockies' depth chart in the 2011 book, three slots ahead of familiar name Ethan Hollingsworth, whom the A's acquired in a trade for Clayton Mortensen in January, not long after Baseball America went to press.
Billings faced a total of 38 batters this year, 29 in Oakland, so we don't have much PITCHf/x data to work with -- just 152 pitches. From what's available, though, he's a fastball-slider-change pitcher with the heat coming in around 91 to 95 mph. My goal is to tell you whose repertoire matches up with the one Billings brings by searching for pitchers with similar pitch characteristics, but it does not appear that any of the current online PITCHf/x tools allows me to do this. (The Joe Lefkowitz one, which is otherwise excellent, apparently does not permit searching for both, say, "Vertical break greater than 5 and less than 15" -- you can get "greater than 15 or less than 5" but there is no apparent way to get "all pitches between two bounds.") Anyway, I'm building my own PITCHf/x database now, but since I haven't done this before, this requires downloading many years of pitch data, which takes a while, and which has not been completed at the time of this writing.
Still, it's not that important because Billings, while flashing some impressive strikeout numbers in the minors (456 in 441 2/3 innings from 2007-2010, most of that as a starter), he walked more and more guys as he moved up the chain (per-nine rates of 1.8, 2.3, 3.4, and 3.6 as he moved from Low-A to AA; 34 in 76 2/3 innings in AAA this season). This isn't unusual, of course -- hitters get better as you advance to higher levels, obviously -- but it does point out that he's looking for a career as a middle reliever in the majors, not a top-notch late-inning stopper.
As Friend of Beaneball (and proprietor of his own A's blog, which you should also be reading) David Wishinsky pointed out in the comments on the Neil Wagner retrospective, Billings has been removed from the 40-man roster by being outrighted on August 30th. He's probably not a threat, then, to be a major player on next year's team.
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