It’s probably fair to say that whatever Ted Lilly does next now that his playing days are over, one thing he probably won’t be doing is scoring a coaching job with the Toronto Blue Jays under manager John Gibbons.
In all seriousness, that the lefty’s time with the Bluebirds will be remembered mostly for the run-in he had with the then-skipper is perhaps not giving him enough credit. I imagine that this would be somewhat difficult to say for a good number of Toronto fans as he left town in terms that were far from amicable, but considering that the Blue Jays was the team with which he found the second-most success in his 26.3 fWAR career … the numbers tell a different story.
It’s true — at 6.5 fWAR from 2004-2006, only his time with the Chicago Cubs have been kinder to Lilly (12.0 fWAR) over his 15-year career. But that’s just one number, of course; what kind of value did he ultimately provide Toronto?
As it turns out, Lilly was actually a pretty good member for a number of mediocre Blue Jays teams, though his somewhat prickly personality (to be nice about it) may have belied this fact. Having made $9 million in total salary while he was north of the border, the southpaw wound up providing about $21.6 million worth of estimate on-field value, only underperforming his salary in an injury-plagued 2005.
He pitched just 126.1 innings that year with a brutal 5.56/1.53 ERA/WHIP, but that didn’t stop him from being the team’s leader in both starts made (89), innings pitched (505.1) and strikeouts (424) through the three seasons that he was around. The guy in second place in all three categories? Oh, just Roy Halladay, that’s all.
That’s a bit of a misleading comparison considering that Doc put together two All-Star campaigns in those three years and was worth nearly twice the wins than Lilly at 12.4 fWAR over the same period, but I think it drives home a fair point: while he never truly helped the Blue Jays get to where they wanted to be, Lilly was a solid middle-of-the-order guy that turned out being something of an unintentional rotation anchor in his years as a member of the Blue Jays.
Does Lilly’s on-field value to the team look better than it should because they were running guys like Josh Towers (4.0 fWAR in 2004!), Dave Bush and Gustavo Chacin? Eh … maybe, but even though his control was always left wanting (4.06 BB/9 with Toronto) and he was homer-prone (1.37 HR/9), he managed to be an effective enough innings-eater that made him arguably the Blue Jays’ second-best pitcher in those campaigns, not to mention an All-Star.
No wonder why he went on to earn the four-year, $40 million deal with the Cubs. And if you’re wondering — yes, he outperformed his salary in each of those seasons too.