Wednesday, October 9, 2013

What happened to Jeremy Hellickson?

Jeremy Hellickson beat out Mike Trout for Baseball
America's Minor League Player of the Year award in 2010,
then was voted Rookie of the Year in 2011.
Jeremy Hellickson got the ball Tuesday in an elimination game for the Tampa Bay Rays. It was about the weakest no-run start one can imagine: He breezed through the first inning, then loaded the bases with nobody out in the second and got pulled.

That the Rays escaped the jam without allowing a run doesn't excuse his performance — in that game, or for the season. Hellickson, in his third full season in the majors, saw his ERA inflate from 2.95 as a rookie in 2011 and 3.10 in 2013 to 5.17 in 2013.

The Iowa native's leading indicator stats are a mixed bag. His strikeout rate and walk rates actually improved this year, and the home run rate remained stable. More batted balls found holes, and that may well be ascribed to hit luck. But if so, it would more more a case of abnormally good fortune in the first two years, when his BABIP (batting average, balls in play) was a minuscule .224 and .264, than abnormally good fortune this year (his 2013 BABIP was a more normal .308). Which suggests that Hellickson was getting better results in his first two seasons than he deserved.

Hellickson is about to become arbitration eligible, and I really wonder what the budget-conscious Rays will do with the 2011 Rookie of the Year. Scott Boras is his agent, so there will be no team-friendly bargains struck. The statistically-savvy Rays may well decide it's time to dump him on a team hoping that his 2013 was an aberration.

And if there's an organization susceptible to that kind of thinking, it would be the Minnesota Twins.

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