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.