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May 9, 2013 posted by Paul Greco

Buy-Low: Jeremy Hellickson

Buy-Low: Jeremy Hellickson
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There isn’t a better buy-low opportunity in baseball than the young Rays right-hander, Jeremy Hellickson. The best news is that not only are some inexperienced owners that fret over small samples panicking, but industry owners are surely panicking as well. This is due to the fact that Jeremy has always been a guy that out-pitched his peripherals. Many industry experts have predicted Jeremy’s “regression” for a long time since his strand rate has been over 80% each of the past two seasons. Very few pitchers can ever sustain that or so they say.

For Jeremy, his problems have come in a couple of areas; his strand rate has crept back toward league average at 73% and his BABIP has risen to .281 after averaging a BABIP of .240 the past two seasons. For many “spreadsheet-only” fans, Jeremy’s struggles look like a complete validation of their metrics. Ironically, Jeremy’s xFIP is lower than it’s been the last two seasons.

This looks like lazy analysis once again. Let’s look at what’s plaguing Jeremy; we’ll do that by dissecting his pitch mix.

In 2012, Jeremy threw 39% fastballs, 14% sinkers, 16% cutters, 7% curveballs and 25% changeups.

Pitch Batting Avg. Slugging ISO True Average
Fastball .290 .493 .204 .303
Sinker .327 .436 .109 .288
Cutter .262 .595 .333 .308
Curveball .209 .242 .033 .185
Changeup .236 .418 .178 .250

 

Notice how the sinker and cutter were not as effective as Jeremy would’ve hoped when he introduced those pitches into his arsenal last year. The curveball was arguably Jeremy’s best pitch but he only threw it 7% of the time.

One of the things fantasy GMs should love about Jeremy is how cerebral he is in his approach to pitching. It’s almost as if Jeremy looked at this numbers or at least was cognizant of his own arsenal because he’s markedly decreased his usage of the cutter and sinker while falling in love with his curveball. Here are his 2013 numbers:

Pitch Usage % Batting Avg. Slugging ISO True Average
Fastball 43% .317 .730 .381 .368
Sinker 6% .222 .556 .333 .297
Cutter 2% .000 .000 .000 .000
Curveball 20% .241 .276 .034 .204
Changeup 29% .213 .277 .064 .215

 

Jeremy’s off-speed offerings have been absolutely phenomenal this season. However, his fastball has been obliterated. What seems to be the issue? Well, velocity has been down to just a tick under 91 MPH which is a concern, but it could be the removal of the sinker and cutter as options in his arsenal. Say what you will about the success of those two pitches last year for Jeremy, but both are different variations on the fastball and they will keep a hitter honest at the plate. Now, when a batter sees a pitch around 90 mph, they know exactly what it is.  It’s not going to have late cutting or sinking action and it allows them to get the good part of the bat on the ball. Example: This Chris Davis HR on a fastball way out of the zone: Davis recognized the pitch, stayed back on it, and used his height, leverage and long reach to get the bat head out and into the area of Hellickson’s pitch. If that pitch was a cutter or sinker (assuming it wasn’t flat), it would have been a ground-out to third.

Let’s get back to the fastball velocity. The fact is, although Jeremy’s April velocity is a full mile per hour slower than his 2012 April velocity. He’s always been a slow starter in terms of velocity. Let’s take a look:

Year April May June July August September
2011 90.80 91.38 91.91 91.61 92.04 91.93
2012 91.73 91.73 91.87 92.55 92.66 92.81
2013 90.63

 

Without question, there is some concern regarding the velocity since it had been growing steadily on average since April of 2011. It didn’t dip at all before creeping back up all the way to near 93 MPH in the turn of September 2012 to April 2013.

Jeremy is an excellent pitcher. He has an solid arsenal of off-speed pitches which will allow him to continue to get swings and misses (Jeremy has increased swinging strike % over last year) as he works through the struggles with his fastball.

Ultimately, when looking for a buy-low opportunity the behind the scenes statistics with the given player will never be completely rosy. Buying low is based on percentage plays and using what we know about a given player in addition to the cost to acquire their talents. Jeremy is only owned in 73% of ESPN.com leagues and 85% in CBS leagues. If he’s not on the waiver wire, he’ll be on a very annoyed owner’s team. Grab him.

 

Paul finished the 2011-2012 Fantasy Football season as the #1 Weekly Rankings & Projections winner of the 411Fantasy Expert Challenge. He also finished 2nd in the FantasyPros.com Expert Draft Accuracy Challenge in 2011. Top 10 Finisher in the FSWA Fantasy Football Draft Projections. Paul is also apart of baseballs elite as a member of Tout Wars. You can follow me on Twitter @PaulGreco
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