Jeremy Hellickson has always had a reputation for being a slow worker. He has tended to be very deliberate between pitches, making sure that he is perfectly comfortable and ready before releasing the ball. His very slow approach could also be beneficial in other ways, by making an opposing baserunner a bit flatfooted before taking off for a stolen base, and potentially disrupting the rhythm of the batter.
However, this season, Hellickson has taken his deliberate pace to an even greater extreme. Coming into last night’s game against the Orioles, Hellickson has taken 25.5 seconds between pitches, the longest time in the American League. While that approach can help to jargogle the opposition, it can also take a toll on the fielders behind Hellickson. Typically, fielders prefer a pitcher to work quickly, allowing them to stay on their toes and be ready to make plays. A slow working pitcher can cause the fielders to be flatfooted, and a bit slower to the ball.
Perhaps that deliberate pace to the plate has been a factor in Hellickson’s struggles this season. When Hellickson had been at his best, he was attacking the zone, and working comparatively quickly. While a great deal of focus was on how Hellickson was not only getting ahead as usual, but putting hitters away, he appeared more comfortable on the mound. He appeared to be ready, confident that his stuff was more than good enough to get out opposing hitters without having to work the corners.
Maybe all Jeremy Hellickson needs to break out of his recent struggles is to pitch quicker and attack more. Considering the results thus far this season, it certainly couldn’t hurt.