The AL Rookie of the Year, Jeremy Hellickson had a wonderful season in 2011 as he won 13 games, posted a 2.95 ERA and had a 1.15 WHIP over 29 starts covering 189 innings. He completely deserved the ROY award as Hellickson did exactly what everyone though he would do – he pitched very well. None of his pitches are elite, but his ability to mix and match his pitches, and to locate the ball, led to some impressive results. Will he replicate that effort in 2012?
Hellickson didn’t tire late in the year as he lasted at least six innings in seven of his last eight outings. He also performed well allowing three or fewer earned runs in each of those eight outings. Moreover, Hellickson actually posted a better ERA in the second half than the first (2.64 versus 3.21), while his WHIP went up only a hundredth to 1.16. Not bad at all. Hellickson should be capable of throwing 200-innings in 2012, and with his skills that makes him someone you really need to pay attention to.
Though Hellickson’s ability to “pitch” is well advanced beyond his years, I do worry a bit about some of the things we saw on the field in his first full season. A strong strikeout performer in the minors, Jeremy posted a K/9 mark of 8.17 in 36.1 innings in his first season. Last year that number dropped all the way down to 5.57. Remember, I tend to avoid starters that don’t have a mark of at least 6.00. He may not be an 8.00 K/9 kind of guy in the bigs, but he really needs to recapture some of what he lost if he wants to maintain his ratios from 2011 in the future (his minor league mark was 9.8).
Hellickson walked 1.98 batters per nine in his first season, and last year that number grew substantially to 3.43 per nine. Given that the big league average for walks in 2011 was 3.11 per nine, we’re talking about a K deficient pitcher who walks more batters than an average big league hurler. That doesn’t shout out 2.98 ERA, especially in the AL.
Unfortunately for Hellickson, he allows a few too many fly balls as well, the result being another below big league average mark of 0.78 in GB/FB ratio (the big league average is usually about 1.10). Not enough K’s to be average, Too many walks to be average. An inability to produce a big league mark in GB/FB… are you starting to see why Hellickson might be slightly over-drafted in 2012?
Further confirmation of why you should be slightly concerned with a repeat effort in 2012 follows.
Hellickson posted a left on base percentage of 82.0 percent. That mark was was the second highest in baseball (Jered Weaver was at 82.6), and it is not a mark that Hellickson will be able to repeat in 2012 (don’t forget the big league average is about 70 percent). If Hellickson has a strong year in 2012 he’d probably be up around 75 percent. He’s not hitting 80 percent again, and this fact alone puts his ERA in some jeopardy. Further concern should be raised by the fact that Hellickson’s xFIP last year was 4.72, nearly a full run higher than the 3.83 mark he posted in 2010. Even if we split the difference there, we’re talking about a similar performance in 2012 likely resulting in an ERA in the mid-3′s, not below 3.00.
As I’ve already said, Hellickson has an advanced understanding of how to pitch for a fella with only 225.1 innings in his big league career. However, the chances of him repeating his ERA and WHIP numbers in 2012, if he doesn’t change a whole bunch of things about his performance, are rather small. I’m not saying he is going to fail, he is too talented for that, but I’m warning you that it might be wise to avoid building your pitching staff around the young, talented righty from the Rays.
By Ray Flowers