Hellickson's New Toy

"Don't look now," said Hellickson, "but I think they've noticed my new pitch." Unfortunately, Molina was unable to control his gaze. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Near the beginning of 2011, Jim Hickey was on record as saying that he prefers his starting pitchers to have four pitches, but that he didn't want to change Jeremy Hellickson's three pitch approach because it was obviously working. Well, one season of a sterling ERA but troubling peripherals (4.78 SIERA), especially against left handed batters, seems to have changed his mind. Reports out of spring training were that Hellickson was introducing a cutter.

It's usually a good idea to be leery of spring training reports. It's also smart to avoid relying on the mlbam pitch classifications to identify a new pitch, as the classifications are continuously being improved, which means that what was classified one way in 2011 could be the same pitch classified differently in 2012. One game in, though, it looks like Helly's rumored cutter is real.

Data from Joe Lefkowitz and Brooks Baseball. All classifications are my own.

For 2010 and 2011, I've assumed that any pitches straying into cutter territory are errant four seam or two seam fastballs. For 2012, I've assumed the existence of a cutter. Go ahead and take a look for yourself. In only one game in 2012, Hellickson has already thrown more fastballs with 5-10 inches of rise and either positive or only slightly negative run. That's good enough for me.

How will Hellickson use his new pitch? It's way to early to tell from the data, but generally, the cutter is a platoon neutral pitch, so it gives him another useful weapon against left handed hitters. He hasn't varied his pitch mix by handedness dramatically in the past, though, preferring to stay unpredictable, so I'd bet he uses his cutter to both lefties and righties.

Regardless, this is exciting, and it's a reminder that pitchers are not automatons, with results randomly varying around their true talent from season to season. Rather, the pitchers change, and their true talent changes.

SB Nation Featured Video
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