Is Ted Lilly An Overlooked Fantasy Option?

By Kyle Johansen

Let me throw some quick stats at you:

  • 2009 WHIP: 1.06 (5th among MLB starters)
  • 2010 WHIP: 1.08 (7th among MLB starters)

It seems to have gone relatively unnoticed that Ted Lilly has ascended to an elite level when it comes to allowing batters to reach base.  As a fly ball pitcher, Lilly has a natural tendency to suppress the oppositions BABIP and calling spacious Dodger Stadium his home next year should further support this skill.  The .259 BABIP against him in 2010 certainly shows some luck, but for his career Lilly has induced a BABIP of .283, so the mark isn’t as far out of line as one would initially think.

The main reason for caution with Lilly recently seemed to be his drop in velocity, as teams were reporting he was sitting around 85-88 MPH on his fastball.  Despite the velocity, Lilly’s K/9 in 2010 was a solid 7.71, up slightly from his 7.68 in 2009.  Lilly combines this ability to fool batters with impeccable control.  Here are his BB/9 numbers since he came over to the National League:

  • 2007: 2.39
  • 2008: 2.81
  • 2009: 1.83
  • 2010: 2.04

He has comfortably moved his BB/9 down to right around two, and while obviously aided by the league change, he has shown a distinct increase in skill from his earlier years in the AL which saw him post three straight seasons with a 4+ BB/9 leading up to 2007.  The combined ability to keep hitters off balance while staying in the zone has led to elite K/BB numbers of 3.77 in 2010 and 4.19 in 2009.

The outlook isn’t all rosy for Lilly though, as extreme fly ball pitchers have the disadvantage of giving up a higher rate of home runs than average.  Due to the amount of homers he gives up, (1.49 HR/9 in 2010) FIP is not very kind to him, sitting at 4.27 for 2010.  Playing in Wrigley for the majority of the season accounts for some of this, but despite the Friendly Confines, Lilly’s HR/9 was just 1.12 in 2009. Both stats seem to be outliers, as Lilly for his career has a HR/9 of 1.35.  However, this is another area where Dodger Stadium should be an advantage.

One reason I believe Lilly has been overlooked the past couple of years is his inexplicably low win totals.  Totaling just 10 wins in 2010 (3 heading into August) and only 12 in 2009, his paltry wins have lowered his rankings relative to his peers.  Lilly’s luck is bound to change and his win total should rebound to around 15 next year.  For his NL career Lilly has an ERA of 3.69 and that sounds about exactly what I would expect for 2011.  Above average ERA, impressive WHIP and strikeouts that won’t hurt your team make Lilly a reliable option to target in the second half of the draft.

What are your thoughts of Lilly?  Is he worth drafting in all formats?  Can you repeat his success?

Make sure to check out some of our 2011 projections:


  1. Pitchers like Lilly tend to be extremely undervalued, particularly in brand new keeper league drafts where there is ageism going on (discrimination against players older than 30). Thus, you can grab a Lilly or Kiroda relatively late who can significantly stabilize your rotation.

  2. I like Lilly as a 3rd of 4th starter in most fantasy formats. Wins are too unpredictable of a stat to use in any fair assessment of a player. However a full season with the Dodgers in the shaky NL West could prove to boost Lilly’s wins. More importantly his age will leave him around, particularly in keeper leagues, for many owners to solidify their rotations. His MockDraftCentral ADP of 217 puts him in the range of Max Scherzer and Jaime Garcia but Lilly’s consistency should place him far above these unproven starters.

    Personally I see Lilly as a guy that should be drafted much higher in the tier of Ricky Romero and Wandy Rodriguez, and maybe even higher in single year formats.

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