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Is Hellickson enough to help Os pitching?

By: Will Pitts

Is Jeremy Hellickson enough of a boost to solidify the Orioles pitching rotation?

When Jeremy Hellickson received the call telling him that he was traded from the last-place Philadelphia Phillies to the Baltimore Orioles, it must have been a relief. Unfortunately, it may be a case of going from the frying pan to the fire.

As a Phillie, Hellickson endured a rollercoaster of a first half to the season. In his first five starts of the 2017 season, he went 4-0 with one no-decision. While his statistics weren’t particularly flashy, he did just enough to become the unexpected hero of the Phillies’ pitching staff – and make himself noticed in the trade market. His results were especially impressive considering that he was propping up an anemic batting lineup, ranked 28th overall in runs per game.

Unfortunately, the fairytale could not last forever.

As the Phillies’ staff was thrown into chaos by long-term injuries, Hellickson was repeatedly pressed into service on short rest. The results were inevitable. The Phillies went 5-10 in his last 15 starts with the club, with the beleaguered pitcher recording only one official win during that stretch. His ERA ballooned from 1.80 to 4.73, and his WAR (wins above replacement) rating tumbled down to a paltry 0.3.

And now the Baltimore Orioles are entrusting him to boost their pitching staff.

Unlike Hellickson’s former club, the Orioles have a solid offensive core, with Adam Jones, Chris Davis, and Jonathan Schoop providing run support. This year, however, it just hasn’t been enough. The O’s are ranked dead last in the American League in team earned run average, with a ghastly 5.07. The bottom fell out in June when the pitching staff tied a dubious major league record by allowing five runs or more in twenty straight games. As a matter of fact, the Orioles’ staff is in such disarray that even Hellickson’s diminished WAR rating of 0.3 would be good enough for third-best on the starting rotation, ahead of Ubaldo Jimenez and Chris Tillman (both -0.1).

Even more troubling, their farm system is not producing talent up to their usual standard, leaving them with few blue-chip prospects to put on the block when the trade deadline arrived. All the Orioles could offer were minor-league southpaw Garrett Cleavinger, noted by observers for his lack of control, and second-year outfielder Hyun-soo Kim. Hellickson was simply the best man they could get.

Unfortunately, his challenges aren’t over now that he’s out of Philadelphia. He now pitches in the American League East, home of some of the most imposing hitters in the game. In the second half of the season, he will regularly face such figures as Xander Bogaerts, Hanley Ramirez, Didi Gregorius, Logan Morrison, Steven Souza, and Major League Baseball’s newest superstar, Aaron Judge. He will once again have to face the designated hitter, something he has not done since he pitched for Tampa Bay in 2014.

Perhaps a change of scenery is what Hellickson needs to return to his early-season form. Whatever the case may be, his first start as a Baltimore Oriole comes Tuesday night against the Kansas City Royals. It will be his first chance to show whether he can handle the pressure of carrying an entire pitching staff – and an entire team – on his back.

And if the first half of the Orioles’ season is any indication, they will need it.

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Will Pitts

After playing youth ice hockey for nine years and high school lacrosse for two years, William Pitts decided he would take the path of reporting on sports rather than playing them. In addition to writing for SoMuchSports, he also operates his own blog, the cleverly-named "Sports on TV" Blog, focusing on the business of televised sports. He hopes to one day become the next Al Michaels, but he'll gladly settle for becoming the next Joe Buck.

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One Response to “Is Hellickson enough to help Os pitching?”
  1. Salminella says:

    Perhaps he will replace the ever erratic Ubaldo. Hellickson has potential, not realized with the ‘rebuilding’ (when are they not rebuilding?) Phillies. The sorry Phils have little in the way of hitting, mental errors are common and run production is minimal.

    O’s produce runs, have a good infield and if Hellickson can eat up some innings, it might be a push in the right direction.