Last week we expressed some concern over Jeremy Hellickson and the 24 percent increase in innings pitched he had last season over the year before. When young pitchers show that large of an increase in workload, there is some evidence to suggest that they are more at risk for a down season or even injury.

And now Tom Verducci confirms our concerns expresses similar concerns.

Verducci lists Hellboy as one of 14 young pitchers on “The Red Flag List.” But he does note that the Rays did a good job of taking care of their young starter…

The Rays have their own rule of thumb. They generally prefer to bump their pitchers’ workload by no more than 20 percent annually. (Price took a playoff-influenced 36 percent jump in 2010 and saw his ERA swell by 0.77 last year.) For Hellickson, the 20 percent rule would have meant an increase of 31 innings, so he was not far off their target, even with a pennant race and the postseason (one start lasting four innings) influencing his work. The Rays also did a good job finding him extra rest in between starts. Beginning in late May, Hellickson pitched on the fifth day only six times in his final 21 starts.

There might actually be another reason to be concerned with Hellickson. While we don’t have his pitch totals for the minor leagues. There is a good chance his actual pitch count increased by more than 24 percent in 2011.

In 2011, Hellickson’s walks per nine innings (3.43) jumped nearly a walk per game from 2.60 in 2010. More walks means more pitches.

None of this means Hellickson is going to stink in 2012. No team is more careful with their pitchers than the Rays. But if Hellboy does have a stinker of a season, this might be why.




  1. Not joeybw says:

    Hey Cork. By look at Hellickson’s batter’s faced last year, we can calculate around how many pitches he threw (he threw 3.8 pitchers per PA in 2011). He threw 19.7% more this year. However, due to Hellickson’s lower BB rate in the minors and easier hitters to get out, the number is probably around 18%.

    Also, FIP iis the reason Hellickson will get worse in terms of ERA. Funny how the quote you used mentions Price and regression when talking about 2011. Price had his best year last year!!!

    – Not joeybw

    • Cork Gaines says:

      Well, first of all, I doubt David Price would tell you that he was better in 2011. Second of all, yes, his FIP was actually better in 2011, but that only paints a general picture. How did he get there? Price was far more consistent in 2010. In 2010, he only had one month with an FIP over 4.00 and no months over 5.00. Now go look at David Price in the month of July this past year. His FIP was 5.23. At that point, Maddon started to give Price some extra days off in between starts, a sign that Maddon thought Price was tiring.

      He was also more consistent within games.

      Here is the OPS for batters based on how many times they had faced Price that game (first time up, second time up, etc)

      2010 2011
      1 .641 .564
      2 .554 .596
      3 .709 .830

      He was a little better earlier in the game in 2011 as compared to 2010. But he imploded late in the game in 2011. That is a sign of a pitcher with a tired arm.

      I like FIP as a stat. And if I was only allowed to look at one stat, I would use FIP (I’m not sold on xFIP yet). But it is still just one stat and it is not infallible. The Rays are not making personnel decisions based on just one stat.

      • Not joeybw says:

        Maddon didn’t cut down Price’s innings. They brought up Cobb at that point and moved to a 6 man rotation.

        Also, why look at OPS through the lineup? Funny…. Price had a higher SO/BB rate when he faced a batter the second time. Not convinced? Price had a higher K/BB rate in innings 4-6 than 1-3.

        And then let us look at his FB velocity. Last year, Price’s velocity got better as the season went on, which is very rare. He didn’t tire out though, as his velocity was maintained through the year.

        • Cork Gaines says:

          they brought up Cobb and moved to a 6-man rotation in part to limit the workload of Price. You dont take away innings from your no. 1 and no. 2 pitchers and give them to your no. 6 pitcher just because you want your no. 6 pitcher in the big leagues.

          • Not joeybw says:

            Cobb was pitching very well at the time. And while he was cutting some time away from Shields and Price, he was also cutting away time for Hellickson’s, Niemann’s, and Davis’s starts.

            He wasn’t brought up or kept up just to keep Price fresh. It was due to an injury, poor performances by Hellickson, Niemann, and Daivs, to keep the whole rotations innings down, and because CObb was pitching very well.

          • Cork Gaines says:

            I disagree, but it doesn’t matter. The fact is, Price was struggling. They gave him extra rest. He got better.

  2. pete says:

    He is a finesse guy who certainly isn’t max effort. i do believe he got tired at the tail end of 2011 but i think he will be fine.

    • Cork Gaines says:

      Being a finesse guy helps. But it can also hurt. My biggest concern with Hellboy is that he was getting too cute in 2011. Rather than attacking batters and depending on his movement to get swing-and-misses, he was trying too hard to paint the corner with every pitch. That tells me that he has lost a little confidence and/or the batters have figured him out.

      The same thing happened to Andy Sonnanstine and he never recovered. Kinda like a hot rookie hitter when the pitchers finally find the holes in his swing. Now, Hellickson is clearly more talented than Sonny and it will never get that bad. But Hellickson needs to rediscover his dominance within the strikezone.

    • Beth says:

      I’m not sure I follow that argument. Being a finesse guy doesn’t mean you aren’t putting a huge strain on your arm. It’s not just throwing hard that is stressful. Also, it seemed to me (this is completely anecdotal, I know) that thanks to the higher walk rate Hellickson was often pitching with men on base. That high of high leverage pitching is often a cause for concern.

      • Cork Gaines says:

        yes, Finesse might not be the best term here. More accurately, he is not a max-effort guy. Scott Kazmir is a max-effort pitcher. David Price is kind of a max-effort guy. Matt Moore is the exact opposite of max-effort. Anyway, a guy like Hellickson is less likely to be putting strain on his arm, assuming all else is equal. But as you mentioned, there are other situations that can add stress. Pitching from the stretch a lot is certainly one of them.

  3. Gus says:

    Thet need to sheild Hellickson from Yankee Stadium. His style (fly ball outs) doesn’t work in that bandbox with those Yankee hitters.

    But he’s going to be fine if he stays professional and focused off the field.

  4. Joe says:

    That’s cute, who is “notjoeybw”?

  5. Rob says:

    Verducci didn’t confirm anything, he agrees. And it’s hardly news that the Rays protect their pitchers. I’m feeling the umps will give the ROY a little more respect this season and he won’t be squeezed on the strike zone so much.

    • Cork Gaines says:

      fair point. bad choice of wording on my part. Although I am not sure he agrees either, considering he probably didn’t read my original post, and would have had the same conclusion even if he had.

      And I wasn’t trying to portray the protective nature of the Rays as some sort of trade secret. I was just explaining why Verducci’s “red flag” may be overstated. And just because it is obvious to you, doesn’t mean it is obvious to everybody.

  6. Joe says:

    Anyway, I think Helly will actually be better this year. I gotta think Molina will be his personal catcher and getting those borderline calls will cut down the walks, stopping a guy on 1st from stealing 2nd will help. He was never going to overpower anyone but him and Molina together can definatley out smart the hitters.

    • J 2.0 says:

      In my opinion, I think Wade Davis will have a breakout year this year and Hellboy might have a sophmore slump. Price will be fantastic this year and Shields will be solid, but not matching last year’s totals.

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