You could use a lot of adjectives to describe Jeremy Hellickson these days, but I think it’s fair to say that the L word is not one of them.
That’s because whatever luck he had owed to the baseball gods over his young career thus far is being paid back in full in his third full season with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Not only is he no longer outperforming his FIP for the first time ever (4.90 ERA vs. 4.04 FIP), but he’s getting no luck in the strand rate department either, getting hit with a below average 66.1 percent of runners left on base through 104.2 innings in 2012. Ditto his BABIP, currently sitting at at career-high .290 despite no significant changes form his batted ball profile between this year and 2012.
So if all that is the case, why is it that he’s still en route to his best season yet in terms of value, and is already a 1.3 fWAR pitcher despite that eye sore of an ERA?
Well, that might be because instead of putting up sub-par peripherals and letting luck carry him, Hellickson is actually doing a fair bit of helping himself now that it all seem to have turned on him — which is to say that actually … he’s been quite a bit better than you might expect.
Take, for example, his current three-game winning streak, which he cemented with a solid outing on Sunday against the Detroit Tigers, throwing six-plus innings of one-run ball on six hits (a homer) and three walks, while striking out six. Though he did run out of gas towards the end, loading the bases in the seventh without recording an out, he managed to stay out of trouble by getting the double play when needed (first inning against Miguel Cabrera) and had retiring six straight batters before the seventh.
The outing not only continued his personal winning streak, but also gave the righty three quality starts in a row for the first time this season.
Overall, that gives him a sound 3.53/1.23 ERA/WHIP over 35.2 innings in the month, which included an eight-run blowout as one of the six starts within. Still, considering that he’s putting up a 2.86 FIP despite a .321 BABIP and standard 72.8 percent strand rate in June, and I think it’s easy to see that the success he’s had has been more of his own doing.
Which is not to say that he isn’t a little fortunate now, of course (the 4.9 percent HR/FB rate seems like an outlier in June). But as long as he’s focusing on being good first … well, you know how the rest of the saying goes.