Daily Process: Jeremy Hellickson Is Unimpressed With The Angels | The Process Report

Daily Process: Jeremy Hellickson Is Unimpressed With The Angels

Some people need a day-to-day or game-to-game narrative to really entrench themselves in the season. If that sounds like you, then you’re getting treated to sequel after sequel after sequel. The Rays pitched well today, but the bats didn’t show up.

I’m going to address the offense first before writing about Jeremy Hellickson. Entering today, the Rays had the lowest team batting average on balls in play and the highest rate of walks drawn. I’m not implying the Rays are constantly hitting rockets that are being caught –they aren’t—but look at Matt Joyce’s balls put into play today and you can sympathize with the situation a bit. He’s working at-bats and sending some into play that –at least a fraction of—should turn into hits. And it seems like none are. This is going to change. It has to change. I don’t know when it will change, but let’s just hope it starts tomorrow afternoon in Chicago.

As for Hellickson, he was an absolute delight today.

Prominent scouting writers like Kevin Goldstein and Ben Badler are super high on Hellickson. I respect their opinions immensely, but I’ve held steadfast to my ultra conservative projection (roughly a league average run average) in order to prevent disappointment. On days like today, it makes it difficult to stay the course –and yeah, Hellickson has had some days like today before too. Sure, Hellickson wasn’t facing The Murderers Row or even the 2011 Red Sox, in fact, the lineup was pretty weak. Maicer Izturis was the designated hitter, Brandon Wood the shortstop, and Jeff Mathis the catcher. Hellickson should run through that lineup –and he did.

This is the first season that I’ve jotted down notes during games, mostly when the Rays are pitching –I would have a notebook full of angry doodles if I wrote while they hit, right? Am I doing this right?— because the rotation is probably the most exciting part of the team. Usually, it’s just casual observations, but sometimes I’ll zone in on a few at-bats to recount or look at later on –sometimes for narrative purposes, other times because they were fantastic (or poor) sequences.

Five games in, and this was the first time I A) made note of the first at-bat and B) stopped taking notes because the entire start is worthy of a pitch-by-pitch breakdown.

Izturis, a switch-hitter, was the first guy up. Hellickson threw him four pitches and all were fastballs, such is a rarity on Helloween. He started him with a fastball over the middle (strike one), then threw a pitch outside (ball one), before going back over the plate for strike two. Here’s where Hellickson is good, he amped up (pitchfx later confirmed this was his hardest pitch of the at-bat) and threw a heater in a similar location to the second pitch. This time, though, Izturis swung and whiffed. One batter up, one K up.

That would be a common theme throughout today’s game too, as Hellickson went 5.2 innings and fanned 10. The club record is 13 (by Scott Kazmir). Keep in mind, this is a guy who didn’t throw a pitch above 92 miles per hour all day.

Another at-bat I really want to mention came after some trouble. A home run, single, and double preceded Brandon Wood stepping to the plate. It was clear that Wood was looking fastball, and why not? This was a situation where he was looking to drive the ball and extend the lead. What he got, though, were three pitches with velocities of 73, 79, 76, and 79. He swung through three and left two in scoring position.

Hellickson struck out 10 of the 25 batters he faced. That’s 40 percent –40 percent!—and again he doesn’t have a David Price fastball or even a Scott Kazmir fastball. Where he does damage is sequencing and location.

Let’s key in on Torii Hunter’s at-bats versus Hellickson today.

In the first:
91 MPH FB inside (called)
74 MPH CB outside (whiff)
77 MPH CB outside corner (whiff)

In the fourth:
77 MPH CH up and in (ball)
77 MPH CH down (whiff)
77 MPH CH way down (ball)
90 MPH FB way away (ball)
90 MPH FB away (called)
74 MPH CB down and away (whiff)

In the fifth:
90 MPH FB up and over the plate (called)
88 MPH FB way way down and way away (ball)
77 MPH CB down and way away (ball)
78 MPH CH down but within zone (whiff)
78 MPH CB over the middle (pop up)

Fourteen pitches and Hunter made contact once on six swings. I almost wonder if Hunter’s pattern recognition didn’t kick in on that final pitch and he had to adjust once it was up and over the plate, thus causing him to pop it up to the first baseman. I also wonder how much Hellickson’s change and curve play with the hitter’s perception. If Hellickson can start his curve low in the zone and have it appear to be a fastball before the bottom falls out, then yeah, it’s pretty understandable as to why good hitters –like Torii Hunter—just can’t get hold of the thing.

The Angels won the game and they did hit a homer (their other run scored on a well-timed and executed hit and run), otherwise, Hellickson was nails. He pitches anywhere near this level heading forward and he’s going to form a mighty ridiculous and awfully contrasting one-two punch with David Price at the top of the rotation. And soon.

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