Jim Hendry’s trade of Ted Lilly to the Dodgers in 2010 was my coming to Jesus moment–the Cubs’ organization was truly taking a turn for the worse.
Here was a quality, left-handed starter, who for my money was the staff ace since 2007, being shipped to southern California (with Ryan Theriot) for Blake DeWitt. Holy hell.
I wouldn’t go as far to say Lilly was underappreciated during his tenure in Chicago, but I do think it’s fair to say he didn’t get the recognition he deserved.
Ask Cubs fans who the staff ace was during the back-to-back division titles in 2007-08 and most will give top billing to Carlos Zambrano or Ryan Dempster.
For certain, both guys had their moments, but neither was as solid as Lilly during his 3.5 seasons on the North Side.
From his first season with the Cubs in 2007 to the eventual July 31st trade in 2010, the southpaw managed 47 wins in 113 starts while posting a 1.114 WHIP and a sparkling ERA+ of 122.
Lilly not only proved to be a terrific ‘stopper’ when the Cubs were coming off a loss, but he was regularly juggled in the rotation to pitch in the Cubs’ most important series.
Theodore Roosevelt Lilly was the Cubs ace.
Unfortunately, that’s not how most Cubs fans remember him. Instead, it’s the memory of Lilly’s mound tantrum during Game 2 of the NLDS at Arizona, when Chris Young lit him up for a three-run HR in the second inning, prompting Lilly to slam his glove to the ground in frustration.
Granted it was the worst timing for a poor outing, but Cubs fans overreaction to Lilly’s brief loss of composure would’ve made one think he fired a ball into the stands, punched a teammate in the dugout or bumped an umpire…or any number of episodes Big Z was actually guilty of while acting in the roll of the Cubs’ staff ace (rolls eyes).
Still, nothing compares to Lilly being snubbed by Lou Piniella during the 2008 NLDS when the skipper went with Dempster, Zambrano and Rich Harden to start Games 1-3. The series was over before Lilly could throw a single pitch.
Meanwhile, since the trade Lilly has put up respectable numbers with L.A. He made 12 starts to finish out the 2010 campaign with a record of (7-4, 3.97 ERA). The following year, his first full season with the Dodgers, Lilly made 33 starts, pitched 192.2 innings and won 12 games with little to no run support. A nagging shoulder injury, however, limited him to just 8 starts last summer, although he still managed a (5-1, 3.14 ERA) record.
After three months of rehabbing, Lilly ultimately opted for arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder in Sept., resulting in the Dodgers placing him on a modified throwing program this spring.
At 37-years-old, and in the final season of his contract, this may be Lilly’s last hurrah in the bigs. Los Angeles has a crowded rotation as it is, and any setbacks in Lilly’s recovery during spring training could see him as the odd man out in what would be his 15th major league season—the best of which took place with Chicago.
It recently occurred to me that all my favorite Cubs players are now former Cubs players.
Aramis moved north to Milwaukee. Pena returned south to the Rays. Ted Lilly is still with L.A.. Derrek Lee is straddling the line of retirement, Jim Edmonds is already there. Not to mention, no more De-Ro, Sweet Lou or Ryno for that matter.
So the question becomes, who is my favorite current Cub?
My answer: the funny man from north of the boarder, Ryan Dempster, who I’ve long been a fan of for all he does both on and off the field.
Who’s your No.1 Cub?
It always bothered me Ted Lilly was never considered the true ace of the Cubs’ staff during his four-year run with Chicago.
As Cubs fans clung to the idea that Big ‘Z was the man, Lilly got busy winning 47 games–(15) in 2007, (17) in 2008 & (12) in 2009 when he represented Chicago as an NL All Star. And yet despite the league’s lowest run support, Teddy still managed double-digit wins with the Cubs 2010 (10).
Of course, after being dealt with Ryan Theriot to the Dodgers for Blake DeWitt at last summer’s trade deadline, Lilly went (7-4) for L.A. down the stretch.
In 12 of those 16 starts he lasted 6.0 or more innings…10 of those were quality outings…and five times he allowed zero or one run. Is that not the work of an ace?
Following the season the 35-year-old signed a three-year extension with L.A. and has posted a (2-2) record with a 4.45 ERA to date.
Granted his first career start against the Cubs on April 23 was far from ace-like–the lefty lasted just 4.1 innings allowing five runs on 11 hits–but Lilly gets his second crack at the Cubs Wednesday night in L.A.
Look no further than the Cubs’ current rotation and its league worst starter’s ERA to remind you Chicago is missing its former ace left-hander–whether you want to call him an ace or not.
My biggest concern with trading Ted Lilly was the thought Jim Hendry wouldn’t have the chance to resign him this offseason.
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened as the Dodgers inked Lilly to a new 3-yr, $30M deal this week.
I never fully understood why Hendry dangled Lilly so freely this July instead of working out an extension. Lilly was, unquestionably, Chicago’s ace hurler for the past three years.
If you win with pitching, and Lilly’s your best arm, why take the risk of losing him? Just never made sense to me.
It also worries me for the Cubs that Lilly resigned with L.A. so quickly. If Teddy truly thought the Cubs had the chance to win, wouldn’t he at least give Hendry a chance to make an offer?
If the Cubs are back to believing Carlos Zambrano is a No.1, they’re in big trouble. Ryan Dempster is solid, but not a true ace, either.
Which means, it’s up to Carlos Silva, Tom Gorzelanny and Randy Wells to fill Lilly’s shoes. And that’s a tall order for a threesome who each posted an ERA above 4.00.
Ted Lilly suffered his worst outing with L.A. Thursday night.
Unable to keep the ball down, the Giants tagged Lilly for six earned runs, two coming via the long ball, courtesy Aubrey Huff & Buster Posey.
Teddy’s 3.1 innings pitched is his shortest outing since joining the Dodgers.
After winning his first five starts with the L.A., Lilly has dropped his last three, but isn’t getting much run support, either.
The Cubs and Dodgers have combined to provide Lilly with just 2.89 runs per game, the lowest in the Majors. L.A. scored two runs Thursday night, one with Lilly in the game, during its 10-2 loss against San Fran.
Through his nine starts with L.A., Lilly is (5-3) and (8-11) overall this season. Two more wins in his final three starts, however, gives Lilly eight straight seasons of ten or more victories.
Ted Lilly is shaping up to be the best July trade of 2010.
Since joining the Dodgers, Lilly is 4-0 with a 1.29 ERA through his first four starts.
Still a victim of the major’s worst run support, Lilly has received two or fewer runs in three of his four outings. But unlike the Cubs, L.A. has found ways to win close ballgames behind the 34-year-old.
He tossed a two-hit shutout Thursday against Colorado, retiring 19-straight at one point, walked two and struck out a season-high 11.
Not since Kaz Ishii won his first six starts in 2002 has a Dodger pitcher won his first four starts with the club.
Despite Lilly’s ace-form, the Dodgers are all but eliminated from the playoff race. They’ve lost seven of ten falling a distant eight-games back of both the West leading Padres and Wild Card leading Phillies.
Lilly, however, is positioning himself to be a top free agent this offseason, which makes it tougher financially on the Cubs to regain his services for 2011 and beyond.
But if Teddy is open to a return to the North Side, Tom Ricketts would be wise to open the purse strings to resign him.
Ryan Dempster offered high praise for former teammate Ted Lilly following Wednesday’s 15-3 win against Milwaukee.
Mark it down as the Cubs’ first official sales pitch to re-sign Teddy this offseason!
“With Teddy, I always appreciated him every day for what a teammate he was, and what a competitor he was…probably more than anything.”
“I always thought I was the most competitive person out there; I never thought I would find someone more competitive than me. We pushed each other as individuals to do the best we can to help our team.”
“The 3 1/2 years I played with him were as good a time as I’ve had playing baseball. I learned as much from him as I am sure he learned from me. I probably learned more from him. It was truly an honor, not just as a baseball player, but as a human being to be around him every day. I know (the Dodgers) got someone pretty special over there,” said Dempster.
Terrific outing by Ted Lilly in his Dodgers debut!
Already a victim of the major’s worst run support, Lilly gave L.A. exactly what they were looking for: an ace-like performance of seven innings, one-run, two-hit baseball against the team running away with the division.
The Dodgers’ 2-1 win over San Diego snaps a six-game losing streak and keeps L.A. in the division hunt another day (eight-games back).
In four starts since the All Star break Lilly has an ERA less than 2.00 with 29 strikeouts vs. five walks.
If the Dodgers keep its current rotation, Lilly (4-8) has 11 more scheduled starts down the stretch, inlcuding the season finale on Sunday, October 3 against Arizona.
The Dodgers’ main trade piece in return for Ted Lilly & Ryan Theriot is Blake DeWitt, a 24-year-old, left-handed batting second baseman selected by the Dodgers in the first-round of the 2004 amateur draft.
He debuted with L.A. in 2008 as a third baseman batting .264 with 9HR & 52 RBI in 117-games.
Against Chicago in the NLDS, DeWitt went 3-for-11 plating two runs and recording one RBI.
In 2009, however, DeWitt bounced between Triple-A and Los Angeles six times backing up All Star Orlando Hudson. In his 33-games with the big club, DeWitt hit just .204 with 2HR & 4 RBI.
That changed in 2010 with Hudson’s departure and DeWitt in the starting role. He’s rebounded nicely batting .270 with 1HR & 30 RBI in 82-games with the Dodgers.
Although DeWitt is expected to start at second base for the Cubs, he’s started nearly as many games at 3B (82) in his three seasons as he has at 2B (100).
DeWitt also brings to the Cubs this season a .297 avg. with RISP and a .295 avg. for the month of July, including a triple, three doubles and six RBI. He’s also batting .316 avg. in 26 day games, which he’ll see plenty more of playing at Wrigley Field.
I’ve said many times Ted Lilly has been the staff ace since signing a four-year deal in 2006.
But it’s likely his outing Tuesday night was his last as a Chicago Cub.
The Dodgers, Twins and Yankees are heavy favorites to trade for Lilly before Saturday’s deadline.
Lilly’s record with Cubs:
2007: (15-8)–3.83 ERA–207.0 IP
2008: (17-9)–4.09 ERA–204.2 IP
2009: (12-9)–3.10 ERA–177.0 IP
2010: (3-8) –3.88 ERA–117.0 IP
Summary: (47-34)–3.73 ERA–avg. 177.0 IP