Jason Collette over at Dock of the Rays has a great breakdown of the various 2011 predictions for Jeremy Hellickson (who, by the way, is now more in need of a nickname than ever. And no, I do not recognize ‘Hellboy’ as a nickname for a guy that will be mistaken for a bat boy a minimum of 3 times this season).
His analysis raises the million dollar question: Can Hellickson handle a full Major-League workload over 150 IP in 2011?
Hellickson is a little guy (generously listed at 6’1″ and 185 lbs) and, it is perfectly reasonable to worry about the durability of little guys – especially when they have really broken the 150 IP barrier as a professional.
But Hellickson has a very controlled and fluid delivery and rarely appears to overthrow. That is the kind of repeatable delivery that leads to Major League longevity. In fact, while watching him pitch in 2010, I couldn’t help but think his delivery looks a lot like Greg Maddux’s delivery. Maddux, a similarly little guy (at 6’0″ 170 lbs), spent 15 whole days on the Disabled List in his 23 Major League seasons.
Compare those deliveries to the deliveries of Scott Kazmir and Tim Lincecum.
Both Kaz and Lincecum generate the momentum of their pitches by leveraging their body weight over their lead leg and using their pitching arm as a catapult. This type of delivery, while effective at generating power, puts incredible stress on the pitching elbow leading to more frequent visits to the disabled list and, ultimately threatening career longevity.
Maddux and Hellickson, on the other hand, use their legs to move on a lateral plane towards the plate and load their pitches with bent elbows. They generate torque on the the ball with their hips, shoulders, and fingers rather than leverage and thereby distribute the workload more uniformly to bigger muscle groups.
In the final analysis, we should worry about Hellickson’s inevitable adjustment to the big league game (which should hit home right around the time he is facing teams for the second time) but at least we shouldn’t have to worry about his health in 2011.