Jeremy Hellickson and Similar Major League Debuts

As a prelude, I should mention that this article is pretty much irrelevant and the analysis given has little to no predictive value. Even so, it's a fun and interesting exercise, and at least should remind us about the importance of scouting and the problem of small sample sizes. That being said, in honor of Jeremy Hellickson making his second career start today, I figured it would be interesting to see what pitchers have had similar debuts to their pitching career.

I took a couple different approaches to the Play Index on Baseball Reference, with varying degrees of relation to Hellickson's start. In all cases, I had the similar starts ranked by Game Score, which is fairly arbitrary but gives a decent idea of how successful a start was. First, I looked for all those who at least matched the basic numbers Hellickson put up (7 IP, 3 H, 6 Ks, 2 BBs). 

 

Rk

Player

Date

Tm

Opp

Rslt

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

HR

GSc

1

Juan Marichal

7/19/60

SFG

PHI

W 2-0

9

1

0

0

1

12

0

96

2

Steve Woodard

7/28/97

MIL

TOR

W 1-0

8

1

0

0

1

12

0

91

3

Van Mungo

9/7/31

BRO

BSN

W 2-0

9

3

0

0

2

7

0

86

4

Johnny Cueto

4/3/08

CIN

ARI

W 3-2

7

1

1

1

0

10

1

81

5

Carlos Hernandez

8/18/01

HOU

PIT

W 3-0

7

2

0

0

1

7

0

79

6

Mo Sanford

8/9/91

CIN

SDP

W 5-1

7

2

1

0

1

8

0

78

7

Masato Yoshii

4/5/98

NYM

PIT

W 7-0

7

3

0

0

1

7

0

77

8

Ricky Bones

8/11/91

SDP

CIN

W 13-0

7

2

0

0

2

6

0

77

9

Dan Smith

6/8/99

MON

BOS

W 5-1

7

3

1

1

0

9

0

76

10

Wade Davis

9/6/09

TBR

DET

L 3-5

7

3

1

1

1

9

1

75

11

Carl Pavano

5/23/98

MON

PHI

W 3-2

7

3

2

1

0

6

1

71

12

Rob Bell

4/8/00

CIN

CHC

W 4-3

7

3

3

1

2

9

0

70

13

Blake Stein

5/10/98

OAK

CHW

L 3-4

7

3

4

0

2

8

0

69

14

Jason Isringhausen

7/17/95

NYM

CHC

W 7-2

7

2

2

2

2

6

0

69

15

Jeremy Hellickson

8/2/10

TBR

MIN

W 4-2

7

3

2

2

2

6

1

67

There's a wide range of talent here, including our very own Wade Davis! Notably, Hall of Famer Juan Marichal makes the list, though to be fair his debut completely outclasses Hellickson's. A list like this is also a testament to the volatility of pitching, as Steve Woodard went on to have a completely pedestrian career, while Carl Pavano had a debut much more like Jeremy's, and has had a solid career. Also, Mo StanfordRicky Bones? Dan Smith?

Seeing such nobodies next to the Narwhal may dishearten you at first glance, but, rather, it should remind us why scouting is so important. After all, any pitcher can get lucky and put up some good numbers for a night or two. The scouts can help us decipher where the real talent is, and the glowing reports on Hellickson make me confident that he is much closer to following in Carl Pavano's footsteps than in Dan Smith's. One night does not a career make, and many obstacles lie along the Narwhal's path to stardom, but there's no reason to not get excited about what Hellickson is capable of.

Also, for another look, I ran the Play Index just using the inputs of FIP (K, BB, and HR), to try to gain a little bit of sabermetric credibility, while looking for debuts equal to Hellickson's.        

Rk

Player

Date

Tm

Opp

Rslt

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

HR

GSc

1

Jeremy Hellickson

8/2/10

TBR

MIN

W 4-2

7

3

2

2

2

6

1

67

2

Gabe White

5/27/94

MON

COL

W 4-2

6

4

1

1

2

6

1

64

3

Ian Kennedy

9/1/07

NYY

TBD

W 9-6

7

5

3

1

2

6

1

63

4

Brent Gaff

7/7/82

NYM

SFG

L 2-3

7.2

8

3

0

2

6

1

61

5

Ramon Ramirez

8/30/08

CIN

SFG

W 7-6

7

5

3

3

2

6

2

59

6

Salomon Torres

8/29/93

SFG

FLA

W 9-3

7

5

3

3

2

6

1

59

7

John Danks

4/8/07

CHW

MIN

L 1-3

6

4

3

3

2

6

1

56

8

Don Durham

7/16/72

STL

CIN

L 1-4

7

7

3

3

2

6

1

55

9

Tim Fortugno

7/20/92

CAL

TOR

W 5-3

5.2

5

3

3

2

6

1

51

10

Rick Ankiel

8/23/99

STL

MON

L 7-11

5

5

3

3

2

6

1

49

11

Steve Farr

5/16/84

CLE

BOS

L 2-5

5.2

7

4

4

2

6

1

43

12

Todd Van Poppel

9/11/91

OAK

CHW

W 6-5

4.2

7

5

5

2

6

1

34

I don't know about everyone else, but I'd certainly be happy if Jeremy Hellickson became as good of a pitcher as John Danks. Of course, many great pitchers have had awful major league debuts, and many awful pitchers have had great debuts. In the end, it's just one game and just one game is a terrible way to evaluate any pitcher (see, Shields, James, 8/8/10). What we can take from Hellickson's first start is that he seems to match what the scouts and minor league numbers have been telling us, which is a very encouraging sign. Hopefully, he will become a dominating force in the Rays rotation for a long time to come. 

*stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join DRaysBay

You must be a member of DRaysBay to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at DRaysBay. You should read them.

Join DRaysBay

You must be a member of DRaysBay to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at DRaysBay. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9351_tracker