A Look at Jeremy Hellickson’s Struggles With Runners on Base

By David Hill

Jeremy Hellickson‘s struggles this season have been the cause of much consternation. He had been a bit of a statistical anomaly through his first two full seasons, posting extremely low numbers on batting average in balls in play. This season, those numbers have normalized, and may be part of Hellickson’s problems, as we looked into earlier.

There may be other circumstances working against Hellickson as well. Not only is he giving up hits at a higher rate this season, but Hellickson has struggled even more once someone reaches. This season, opponents are hitting at a .237/.292/.389 rate with no one on, with a BABiP of .270. However, if a runner gets on, those numbers increase dramatically. With a baserunner, Hellickson is getting hit at a .312/.348/.522 clip heading into last night. His BABiP skyrockets in that situation, increasing to .353 over the course of the season. It gets even worse if there are runners in scoring position. In that situation, opponents are hammering Hellickson at a .327/.372/.525 rate, with a BABiP of .367.

Both rates are far above his rates over the course of his career. With no one on, Hellickson has held opponents to a .228/.285/.407 rate, with a BABiP of .243. With runners on base, Hellickson has a career line against of .254/.327/.389 and a BABiP of .290. He has also historically been tougher to hit when a runner gets into scoring position, giving up a .240/.328/.357 batting line.

While it was expected that Hellickson would eventually run afoul of the demons of regression, the focus was mainly on the seemingly inevitable rise of his batting average on balls in play. Although it would be logical that the rest of his rates would increase with an increase in BABiP, the jump from Hellickson’s career numbers to 2013 with runners on appear to be due to more than just statistical regression.

When Hellickson has been at his best this year, he has been attacking the zone and trusting his stuff to get key outs. Yet, more often than not, Hellickson has had a tendency to try to pick at the edges of the zone, trying to make the perfect pitch. When runners get on, that tendency seems to have been exacerbated.

Jeremy Hellickson was likely to regress at some point, but his season has been worse than likely could have been expected. Hopefully, that regression will even out again for Hellickson.