MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Los Angeles Dodgers

Here’s the thing about Jeremy Hellickson – he isn’t very good. He was especially not-very-good in 2013, the loose bodies in his right elbow could well factor into this performance. Hellickson is now out of action until mid-to-late May after he underwent arthroscopic surgery to remove loose bodies from his throwing elbow.

But the fact of the matter is Jeremy Hellickson is inefficient and often ineffective – this was true to a certain extent in 2012 and 2011. He never really struck anybody out. He walks too many hitters. He rarely lasts deep into games, running sky high pitch counts and putting extra strain on his bullpen.

Perhaps this isn’t fair to Hellickson, he claims two seasons worth than 3 WAR in just three big league seasons. But watching Jeremy Hellickson, you always get the sense that the explosion of offense was just around the corner. His 2013 breakdown seemed inevitable, not surprising.

Only one other American League pitcher started 90 games while pitching fewer innings than Hellickson over the last three years. Only two AL pitchers accounted for fewer Wins Above Replacement.

AL Pitchers with at least 90 starts from 2011-2013

Rk Player WAR GS IP ERA
1 Rick Porcello 4.1 91 535.1 4.56
2 Ervin Santana 4.5 95 617.2 3.85
3 Jeremy Hellickson 6.2 91 540.0 3.72
4 Derek Holland 7.6 92 586.1 3.98
5 Justin Masterson 7.8 96 615.1 3.86
6 Jon Lester 8.1 97 610.1 4.03
7 C.J. Wilson 9.0 101 638.0 3.37
8 CC Sabathia 11.3 93 648.1 3.69
9 James Shields 12.0 100 705.2 3.15
10 Max Scherzer 12.2 97 597.0 3.66
11 David Price 12.5 92 622.0 3.13
12 Felix Hernandez 13.6 97 670.0 3.20
13 Justin Verlander 20.8 101 707.2 2.81
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 2/3/2014.

He matches league-average production with below-average durability, which sort of defeats the purpose of a inning eater.

The former American League rookie of the year was actually sent down to triple-A in August of 2013, as the Rays sought extra rest for their beleaguered starter.

It was just one start as he came back up when the rosters expanded on September 1, but it came during a month in which he made five starts and completed only 20 innings, allowing 21 runs, walking nine against just 10 strikeouts.

The Rays don’t have the same starting pitching depth as in years past but still feature more than enough options to pick up Hellickson’s innings should his time on the shelf stretch into late April or early May.

A player without upside and durability has to wonder about his future in as a big league starter. Jeremy Hellickson is getting more expensive and, as Tampa Bay develops worthy replacements, should start thinking about his future with the Rays. This injury might mark the beginning of the end for an increasingly replaceable cog in a machine that demands bloodless efficiency above all else.

If Hellickson can regain the “dancing between the raindrops” effectiveness of his 2011-2012 campaigns, the Rays will gladly welcome their right-hander back with open arms. Be can he reclaim the run-preventing wizardry that made him effective in the first place? A clean bill of health a crucial first step in the right direction.