Sunday, March 7, 2010

Jeremy Hellickson's Pitch Sequence

As you may have seen, Jeremy Hellickson made his spring debut on Friday against the Yankees. Luckily for us it was on TV, so we have some video to look over how he did.

He entered the game in the 2nd inning with 2 out and 2 men on, facing Francisco Cervelli. His first pitch was a fastball low, and then another fastball away(YES's gun had it at 93 mph) to fall behind 2-0. His next pitch was a fastball middle-away at 92 mph that Cervelli swung and missed on. Nick Swisher over at 1B had fallen down getting his secondary lead and got picked off by the snap throw, so Hellickson was out of the inning.

So in the 3rd, he faced Cervelli again, starting with a clean slate. He started off with a fastball off the plate, then got a swing and miss at a fastball(91 mph) almost right down the middle. His next pitch was a fastball in(92 mph), maybe off the plate, that Cervelli swung at and foul tipped into Navarro's glove. Ahead 1-2, he went away with another fastball(92 mph) which Cervelli fouled off. Yet another fastball(92 mph again, and now 8 fastballs in a row to Cervelli) missed inside to make the count 2-2. He went to his change-up for the first time(80 mph), but Cervelli laid off as it hit the dirt. Another fastball(93 mph) got fouled back to the screen before Cervelli went down and got a 92 mph fastball that was over the plate and took it to left field, where Sean Rodriguez had some fun with it.

So with a runner on 3rd and none out, Derek Jeter came up. He got a first-pitch strike on a fastball(92 mph) at the knees, almost identical to the pitch Cervelli just hit, maybe a touch lower. This time he went to the change-up sooner, but Jeter laid off to make it a 1-1 count. The 1-1 fastball(93 mph) got in on Jeter, and he fought it off foul to the right side. On 1-2, he threw his first curveball of the day, a 78-mph offering that darted low and out of the zone, drawing an awkward swing and miss from Jeter(click here to view it in gif form)

The next batter was Curtis Granderson. Hellickson started the lefty out with a change-up(79 mph) down in the zone for a called strike. The next pitch was a fastball(92 mph) low in the zone that Granderson chopped right into the ground, back to Hellickson. He looked the runner back and made the throw to first for 2 outs.

Hellickson's final batter was Mark Teixeira, batting from the left side. A first-pitch fastball(92 mph) just missed inside, then a change-up(81 mph) in the dirt and a fastball(92 mph) wide made it 3-0. With first base open, I figured he might not give Teixeira anything in the zone, but Hellickson got a fastball over to make it 3-1. He hit the outside corner with another fastball(92 mph) to make the count full at 3-2. On 3-2, he threw his change-up down and in, out of the zone, but Teixeira chased it for Hellickson's second strikeout.

Now obviously it's Spring Training, the third game no less, so you can't draw too many conclusions. But he looked pretty true to his scouting report. His fastball in the low-90s got some swings and misses even though he left it out over the plate a few times. This tells us that a) hitters aren't yet in mid-season form and/or b) there's a little bit of deception with how he delivers it. I'm inclined to think it's a little of both. The only curveball he threw was very impressive, and while his command of the change-up was a little shaky, it showed real promise. To me, the stuff looked legit, but the control/command was a little bit off, which is not unexpected in early March. I also like how he came back from a mis-played ball by a fielder to get out the Yankees 1-2-3 hitters(again, it's early March, but still) out without allowing the run to score.


  1. I missed his appearance on TV so thanks for the summary. I love the nickname "The Silent Assassin" and hope he earns it. What is your reaction to Project Prospect's skepticism about his ability to handle a starter's workload in the majors? (I don't have the link(s) at hand, but know they consider his relatively light minor league workload a harbinger of problems.)

    Also, do you have any information on why Jake McGee did not make his scheduled appearance yesterday? I haven't seen any mention of it, but during the game the announcer said he was due to pitch the 9th and was warming up but was replaced by De Los Santos.

  2. Many worry about JH's 'projectability' due to his size, but he just keeps moving up with great numbers. The injury last year was a shoulder strain on a pickoff move to 1st, not going to the plate. And none of his injuries have been major to date.

    For me, I prefer Wade Davis, but JH hasn't failed at a level yet. I realize MLB is a bigger step then A>A+>AA>AAA, but until he proves otherwise, I'm onboard.

    McGee pitched 1.1 scoreless with a hit today. No idea why he didn't go yesterday.

    Kevin may have more thoughts on both subjects.

  3. Here is one comment on Hellickson from Adam Foster at Project Prospect:

    Re: PP 2010 Top 50 prospect list

    Postby Adam Foster on Sun Feb 07, 2010 1:25 am
    There were a lot of questions on Hellickson in the chat. Here's what I wrote about our decision to leave him outside of our top 50 in the chat:

    "Hellickson will be in our top 100. Clearly, he's proven that he can retire advanced hitters. I watched him in the Triple-A championship game and loved his fastball/changeup combo. He attacks hitters extremely well.

    But let's take a step back with Hellickson...a fresh look. He'll turn 23 in April. He pitched 113.0 regular season innings in 2009, 151.0 in 2008 and 111.1 in 2007. Sounds like a workhorse, right?

    Throw in a shoulder injury that sidelined him for 47 days last season (early-May through the end of June) and a fractured growth plate in the same shoulder when he was in high school, and you have at least some yellow flags. Add to those Lincoln's concerns (posted below) and I think we have a guy who's unlikely to be able to handle a starter's workload. That's why Hellickson isn't in our top 50.

    I realize that mechanical analysis still has a ways to go. But when you have a 185-pounder who's touching the mid-90s, has an injury history and has some mechanical critics, you're looking at A LOT of risk."

    Excerpt from the Digital Prospect Guide:

    "Hellickson doesn’t get the ball up to the driveline in time for the rest of the body to help with acceleration and leaves virtually all the work of applying force up to the pitching arm."
    I think you do suggest an answer to some of the concerns Foster raises. And given the Rays history of keeping pitchers healthy, it bodes well for Hellickson. I think that Project Prospect is a worthy site that evaluates carefully, so I do not discount their concerns, but they may be a bit over-pessimistic about Hellickson.