Jeremy Hellickson & FDP Wins

FanGraphs has recently rolled out some new pitcher valuation statistics that I really like, and which I’ve been playing around with a lot. These new stats have led me to take a closer look at Jeremy Hellickson, who FanGraphs’ current FIP based WAR model really does not like. Hellickson won the rookie of the year award in the AL last year with a 13-10 record with a 2.95 ERA, but a 4.44 FIP and a 4.72 xFIP. This was largely due to his ultra-low .223 BABIP – leading to an fWAR of only 1.4. Not great. This year is even worse for Hellickson, as he currently has a 0.2 fWAR despite a 3.41 ERA in 145 innings. His BABIP is higher than it was last season; at .254, but it’s still well below league average. I wondered how Hellickson would stack up when looking at FanGraphs’ new BIP-wins and LOB-wins. Would those show a disparity between on field results and the perceived value of a pitcher who gets most of his outs through balls in play instead of strikeouts?

Here is a leaderboard of pitchers since 2008 who have the most FDP wins, or wins that fall outside of the FIP based model:

Name Team WAR FDP-Wins
Matt Cain Giants 19.4 7.2
Jeremy Hellickson Rays 2.1 7.2
Tim Hudson Braves 11.6 6.9
Bronson Arroyo Reds 6.2 6.9
Jered Weaver Angels 21.4 6.6

So Hellickson is tied for first since 2008 with Matt Cain at 7.2 FDP wins. The difference is that Matt Cain has thrown 1067 innings, while Hellickson has thrown 370. Something Hellickson is doing is not jiving with FIP.

From 2008 to 2012, Hellickson has the fourth lowest BABIP of any pitcher that has thrown at least 200 innings at .240; behind only Neftali Feliz, Dan Wheeler and Tyler Clippard. Is it sustainable? Who knows. The only other starting pitchers with a BABIP under .260 over that period are Ted Lilly(08-12: .257; career: .269) and Chris Young (08-12: .252; career: .253). Chris Young has sustained a low BABIP over his entire career, but that only covers 866 innings. Whatever is happening, I think that you can be sure most MLB teams would put Hellickson’s perceived value a lot closer to 9.3 wins (7.2 FDP + 2.1 WAR) than 2.1 wins. Whether he can keep it up is another question.

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