Daily Process: Jeremy Hellickson Goes Change-Heavy, Records First Career Game Shutout | The Process Report

Daily Process: Jeremy Hellickson Goes Change-Heavy, Records First Career Game Shutout

Jeremy Hellickson entered tonight with an equal amount of innings pitched for the Rays in 2011 as he threw in 2010. The big difference between the samples was a decrease in strikeouts and increase in walks and infield fly balls. The name of tonight’s start might as well be “Weak Contact 101” as Hellickson threw his first major league complete game shutout, holding the Orioles off the board despite only striking out three (he also walked one).

It felt like every ball in play was either a grounder or an infield fly and batted ball data backs that assertion up, as FanGraphs classified 16 of the 23 balls in play as infield flies or grounders. There were a few balls hit hard toward center, but Sam Fuld was able to haul them in gracefully.

In addition to setting a career-high in innings pitched, Hellickson also established a new high in pitch count—tossing the baseball 120 times during regulation play on the night. Credit Joe Maddon for having Kyle Farnsworth warming during the ninth (and Joel Peralta during the eighth) but keep in mind that the number of pitches itself is just part of the equation. Hellickson was rarely stressed, and it figures to reason his workload didn’t feel quite like 120 pitches under constant duress.

Don’t construe the lack of fannings with a lack of swinging strikes. PITCHf/x data has Hellickson throwing 63 fastballs and only getting three whiffs, but also has the Iowa native throwing 45 changeups and having 15 swing-throughs—Hellickson actually recorded strikes on 37 of those changes for a stunning 82.2 percent. Hellickson peppered in a few curveballs as well, but he relied heavily on his fastball and changeup all night long—much to the chagrin of the Orioles.

The offense was able to put three on the board against Jeremy Guthrie (who went the distance for Baltimore as well), two coming on a Matt Joyce home run and another on Johnny Damon’s eighth-inning blast.

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