In advance of Tuesday’s game, here are some assorted thoughts and notes on Jeremy Hellickson.
Despite the organizational love for the changeup, Joe Maddon contends that the most important pitch in baseball remains the fastball. This is even true for pitchers with varying degrees of fastball. For Jake McGee, the fastball is important for an entirely different reason than Hellickson; however, it is essential for both.
In Hellickson’s case, the fastball sets up everything else. A well-placed heater not only allows him to work ahead of the count at times, but also changes speeds and eye levels. In the past, Hellickson showed more willingness to work the fastball inside to left-handed batters than he has this season. He’ll need to at least feign interest in the inside fastball tonight to have success against the likes of David Ortiz and Jacoby Ellsbury.
In fact, the pitch does not even have to be all that competitive. Up and in is a good spot as long as in means IN. If Hellickson can put the ball here against lefties, it provides a different look than the changeup (low and away) and the curveball (down and in).
Hellickson should also have a short-term focus. This means attacking with his best stuff and not worrying about the lineup seeing him multiple times. With a full complement of arms – including fellow starters Matt Moore and Chris Archer – he does not need to think about conservation or fooling a batter in the seventh inning as he bats for the third time. Also a shorter focus means if something is not working, scrap it immediately instead of trying to force the issue.
Things have not gone Hellickson’s way in 2013 for a number of reasons; some controllable and some not. In this situation, he does not need to atone for his previous failings in one night. He just needs to make sure he does not add to them.