The Tampa Bay Rays knew they had a good one in RHP Jeremy Hellickson. Since he was drafted in 2005, Hellickson tore through the minor leagues and was impressive in 10 appearances in 2010.
With comparisons to Greg Maddux, a lot was expected of Hellickson going into the 2011 season. So far he has done nothing but impress, and on Friday night, we saw the best of the 24-year-old.
Hellickson pitched his first career complete game shutout on Friday night against Baltimore Orioles as the Rays beat the Orioles, 3-0.
Hellickson allowed just four hits (three singles and a double), one walk and struck out three in the masterful 120-pitch performance. He induced 11 ground-ball outs, 12 fly-ball outs and threw first-pitch strikes to 24 out of the 31 batters he faced.
His 77 percent first-pitch strike percentage was 19 percent higher than his season average.
The key pitch for Hellickson against the Orioles was his dominant changeup. He threw 45 of them on the night and got an amazing 15 swings and misses. Hellickson has always relied on his changeup throughout the season (31.7 percent of his pitches this season were changeups), but he really relied on that pitch on Friday night.
Take a look at Hellickson’s pitch type plot, courtesy of PitchFX:
The changeups are in yellow. I count only six of Hellickson’s 45 changeups to be considered up in the zone. The rest are low in the zone, and the only thing a hitter can do with those pitches are either lay off of them or hit them into the ground.
Hellickson is a great talent, and with him and David Price leading the way in Tampa, the Rays are going to have a one-two punch at the top of their rotation that will rival any team in baseball.
On Friday night, Hellickson took a big step in putting himself on the level of his teammate.