Key Stats: 1 – major awards won... Hellickson is your 2011 AL Rookie of the Year*, capping a great season in which he complied 13 W’s and a 2.95 ERA in the crazy tough AL East over 29 starts. He gave his team 20 quality starts (most among rookies) putting the Rays (and fantasy baseball owners) in great position to rack up wins. His pedestrian 5.57 K/9 rate is nothing to write home about, but he should see a jump in that number next year if he maintains his 9.7% swinging strike rate.
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.
What They’re Saying: CBS Sportsline: #32 in the Top 100 Pitchers; Tristan Cockcroft of ESPN.com: #28 in the Top 75 Pitchers and #111 in the Top 250 Players; Rotochamp: Not Ranked in the Top 300
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
*Didn’t I start another player projection in a similar manner before? I was close... I guess that means I know something...