Skeptics Say: Despite the increase we are expecting in the K/9 department, there are signs pointing to a big regression in his ERA, the most glaring being his 4.78 SIERA. The difference between his ERA and SIERA (-1.68) led qualified starters in baseball by a large margin (Jared Weaver was 2nd with a -1.11 differential). He posted an abnormally low BABIP of .223 and left 82% of his runners on base. When (if) those numbers normalize things for Hellickson next season, not only will his ERA take a hit but his WHIP will too.
Peer Comparison: I pointed out that scary Skill Independent ERA as a cause for concern going into next season. Looking around the majors at other qualified starters with a similar SIERA, actual ERA following…
Brad Penny – 4.98, 5.30
Wade Davis – 4.83, 4.45
Joe Saunders – 4.71, 3.69
Mike Pelfrey – 4.69, 4.70
From that group, Joe Saunders most closely resembles Hellickson. Saunders posted a more sustainable BABIP of .271, a 77.7 LOB% and walked a lower percentage of batters (7.7% to 9.3%). Those numbers more closely justify the season that Saunders had as opposed to Hellickson. It’s the difference between “sustainable” stats and the “unsustainable” ones that really sway how much luck is involved in the results a pitcher sees.
Team Outlook: Hellickson should be in the 3rd or 4th spot in the Rays rotation. Pitching is not the weak link for the Rays as they have both a strong rotation and bullpen. Rantsports points out that a healthy Longoria and a full season with Jennings should help overcome the problems they had scoring runs last year.
Projection: Despite the signs of “obvious” regression, there is a reason that Hellickson was considered a top 10 prospect going into 2011 in just about everyones rankings. I don’t think he’s going to repeat that sparkling 2.95 ERA, but the projected increase in strikeouts should bolster his value and offset the increase we see in his ERA. I’m scratching my head trying to justify why RotoChamp left him off their top 300…
15 wins, 3.86 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 177 K in 200 innings