Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa Bay Rays' Hellickson shrugs off theory he was more lucky than good

Jeremy Hellickson says he knows he’ll have to make some adjustments to hitters to continue his success in the majors.


Jeremy Hellickson says he knows he’ll have to make some adjustments to hitters to continue his success in the majors.

PORT CHARLOTTE — Lucky would be winning the lottery. Meeting an engaging super-model in the supermarket checkout line. Having an off day on the road line up with an offer to play Pebble Beach.

But winning 13 games, as a rookie, for a team playing in the American League East?

"Yea, I just got lucky on the mound," Jeremy Hellickson says dryly. "A lot of lucky outs."

Amid the statistical autopsies of Hellickson's impressive accomplishments last season — a 13-10 record and 2.95 ERA that resulted in the AL rookie of the year award — a story line has emerged that the right-hander's success wasn't all his own doing.

The premise is based on a sabermetric calculation, called BABIP, which stands for batting average on balls in play, something essentially out of the pitcher's control. The theory is that since Hellickson had such a low number — a major-league best .223, nearly 70 points below the league norm — he was more lucky than good.

"I hear it; it's funny," Hellickson said, not quite sure of the acronym. "I thought that's what we're supposed to do, let them put it in play and get outs. So I don't really understand that. When you have a great defense, why not let them do their job? I'm not really a strikeout pitcher; I just get weak contact and let our defense play."

Manager Joe Maddon allows that there was some luck involved in Hellickson's success — in his BABIP; as well as his ERA, lowest by an AL rookie in 21 years; and his .210 opponents' average, third best in the majors. And that there would have to be more for him to do so — or get close — again.

"Is he possibly able to do that? Yes," Maddon said. "Is he going to do it? I don't know."

But it is Hellickson's pitching — specifically his style of pitching, combining a well-located fastball with a dynamic changeup — that is the key, Maddon said, often resulting in weak contact, specifically a high number of infield popups.

"He's a fly-ball pitcher, but he's one of those anomaly guys that gets the popup on the infield,' Maddon said. "If you look into those guys, they are pretty successful. The fastball-changeup combination probably induces the popup."

(Indeed. Of Hellickson's fly balls, 22 percent were on the infield, well above the MLB average of 13 percent, per

Hellickson, 24, isn't too wrapped up in the specifics, nor the suggestion that he is going to have things tougher in his second full season.

He knows hitters will make adjustments based on what he did last season, and that he will have to adjust as well, specifically improving against left-handed hitters.

This spring, for example, he continues to work on implementing a cutter into his repertoire, throwing about 10 in Wednesday's four-inning outing against the Marlins.

"I can either handle my business or I don't," he said.

And that translates to the statistic that Hellickson feels matters the most.

"Wins are by far the most important stat," he said. "You have a terrible day out there but as long as you win, you're fine."

Marc Topkin can be reached at

2011 BABIP leaders

BABIP: batting average on balls in play

J. Hellickson, Rays.223
J. Verlander, Tigers.236
R. Romero, Jays.242
J. Beckett, Red Sox.245
J. Weaver, Angels.250
J. Tomlin, Indians.253
C. Hamels, Phillies.255
J. Shields, Rays.258
M. Pineda, Mariners.258
M. Cain, Giants.260


BABIP leaders

BABIP: batting average on balls in play



J. Hellickson, Rays


J. Verlander, Tigers


R. Romero, Jays


J. Beckett, Red Sox


J. Weaver, Angels


J. Tomlin, Indians


C. Hamels, Phillies


J. Shields, Rays


M. Pineda, Mariners


M. Cain, Giants



Tampa Bay Rays' Hellickson shrugs off theory he was more lucky than good 03/14/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 14, 2012 9:55pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bucs players respond to Trump comments on anthem protests


    President Donald Trump shared his thoughts Friday night on NFL players protesting during the national anthem, suggesting that NFL owners should "fire" players who kneel during the anthem in protest. His remarks are alreading drawing responses from many NFL players, including some Bucs.

    Bucs players Mike Evans and Jameis Winston stand with coach Dirk Koetter during the national anthem in a game played in San Diego last season.
  2. Rays morning after: Wilson Ramos showing glimpses of what's possible in 2018


    The real payoff for the Rays signing C Wilson Ramos last off-season will come in 2018, when he can play a full season fully recovered from right knee surgery.

    Catcher Wilson Ramos connects for a two-run single in the fifth inning against the Cubs on Sept. 20, 2017.
  3. Buccaneers-Vikings Scouting Report: Watching Kyle Rudolph, Adam Thielen and Everson Griffen


    No matter how much film we study, no matter how much data we parse, we just don't know how an NFL season will unfold.

    Four of tight end Kyle Rudolph's seven catches this season have come on third down, including this 15-yard touchdown in the Vikings' opener against the Saints. [Getty Images]
  4. Ryan Callahan encouraged by his return


    Captain Steven Stamkos wasn't the only key Lightning player to make a triumphant return Friday night against Nashville.

  5. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Friday's Rays-Orioles game

    The Heater

    RHP Alex Cobb hates to hear how he "battled through" or "grinded out" a start rather than just dominated, but that's kind of what he did Friday, allowing nine hits and a walk and being charged with two wild pitches but only three runs in earning his 12th win.