Jeremy Hellickson's "Inconsistent" Season
Jeremy Hellickson had a disappointing season that can best be described as inconsistent. The day prior to his Game 4 start against the Boston Red Sox he described his season as, "very inconsistent, very frustrating these last few months. I pride myself on going out there every five days and giving us a chance to win and being consistent. I felt like the last ten starts I don't think I went five in maybe but two of them. So it was very frustrating and it hurt to not go out there every five days and help this team win."
Overall he posted a 12-10 record with a 5.17 ERA but his season was a roller coaster ride. The first two months were frustrating to watch as he went 2-2 with a 5.61 ERA in 11 starts. Then his season took shape and he began to resemble the Jeremy Hellickson of old going 8-1 with a 3.17 ERA over his next 10 starts spanning from July 31st to August 26th. Just as quickly as he seemed to regain his form he lost it again going 0-5 with a 9.00 ERA from July 31 to August 26th.
His poor performance in August resulted in a short demotion to the Charlotte Stone Crabs where was sent for a mental break and to give his arm extra rest. He rejoined the Rays on September 4th and held the Los Angeles Angels scoreless in 5.1 innings on just 4 hits. Over his final 5 appearances (4 starst) he went 2-2 with a 4.87 ERA.
A look at his statistics over the past several seasons shows a very similar pitcher. in 2011 he made 29 starts posting a 13-10 record with a 2.95 ERA, in 2012 made 31 starts posting a 10-11 record with a 3.10 ERA, and in 2013 he made 31 starts and posted a 12-10 record with a 12-10 record with a 5.17 ERA.
Remarkably when comparing his 2013 numbers to 2011 or 2012 he struck out more, walked less, and allowed fewer home runs. His FIP was lower than in either of the previous two seasons as well.
His BABIP increased each season from .223 in 2011 to .261 in 2012 to .307 in 2013 which corresponds to a batting average against of .210 (146 for 695) in 2010, .244 (163 for 669) in 2011, and .274 (185 for 676) in 2013.
In previous years he had an uncanny ability to escape damage with a LOB% strand rate of 82% in 2011 and 82.70% in 2012 but the LOB% Luck Dragon (see below) caught up with him in 2013 as his LOB% dropped to 66.2%.
Of all qualified starting pitchers in 2011 his 82% strand rate was 2nd only to the Angles Jared Weaver and his 82.7% strand rate in 2012 led all major leagues. His 2013 strand rate of 66.2% ranked 77 out of 79 pitchers with only Edinson Volquez (64.4%) and Edwin Jackson (63.3%) worse.
He had a season long struggle pitching with runners on base. With the bases empty he held hitters to a .245 (101 for 413) average but when runners were in scoring position their average jumped to .333 (46 for 138) which included the ever frustration 2-out with runners in scoring position where the opposition hit for a .403 (27 for 67) average.
If the Rays trade David Price they will be leaning on Hellickson to shoulder even more of the starting rotation load in 2014. Regardless of expectations he will have to answer a lot of questions beginning in spring training. It is highly unlikely that Hellickson becomes a different pitcher than in years past and this is either a comforting thought or something to causes apprehension for the fans.
Fangraphs Stat Definitions
Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) measures what a players ERA should have looked like over a given time period, assuming that performance on balls in play and timing were league average.
Left on Base Percentage (LOB%) measures the percentage of base runners that a pitcher strands on base over the course of a season.
Generally most pitchers LOB% will be around 72%. Lower than that and the pitcher will most likely have a lower ERA and below that the pitcher will most likely have a high ERA.
Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP) measures how many balls in play against a pitcher go for hits. The typical average on balls in play is around .300.
Bradley Woodrum Videos
A unique video look at LOB% here:
Woodrum also relates the "expected LOB%" to describe those that stray from the average of 72%.
Luck Dragon #2: BABIP