Diamond Duels: Jeremy Hellickson vs. Brandon Morrow

by Matt Trueblood and Nicholas Minnix on March 11, 2011 @ 15:05:05 PDT


Jeremy Hellickson, SP, Tampa Bay Rays

Matt Trueblood

Hellickson's fantasy baseball player profile

  • The Rays are smarter than you, and me, and anyone else. Yes, David Price and Wade Davis struggled in their first full season of big-league ball, but you know what they have not done? They have not suffered significant injuries. Nor, for that matter, have James Shields, Jeff Niemann or Matt Garza. Davis and Niemann had brief shoulder-created DL stints last year but don't appear to have any lingering issues.
    As they have with the others, the Rays will probably have Hellickson throw more fastballs than he did in his MLB time last year and shy away from breaking pitches that strain his arm. That is their philosophy: Garza, Davis and Price all finished in the top five among qualified starting hurlers in fastballs thrown as a percentage of total pitches last season.
  • Tampa Bay Rays SP Jeremy Hellickson
    Hell Boy hath fury
    One thing that held back Price, Garza and Davis early on was that the Rays' insistence in fastball focus exposed those pitchers' somewhat lacking command of their heat. Hellickson has no such problem: He throws his fastball with precision. None of the previous recent prospects had that level of control when they started out, so Hellickson projects better than his forebears.
  • Speaking of control, Brandon Morrow does not have it. We all rejoiced when Morrow cut down substantially on walks last season. He cut down, all right, all the way to 4.06 per nine innings. Sure, he strikes out a ton of batters, but his downside in WHIP is 1.33 or so. In the best case, he still hurts you in WHIP.
  • Most young pitchers are given innings caps, right around 30 innings more than they pitched the year before. Obviously, workload goes a long way toward determining a guy's fantasy value. Morrow is three years Hellickson's elder but has a history of arm trouble, and the Jays are planning a limit of around 175 frames. Let's hypothesize that Hellickson will have a cap of 30 innings above his 2010 total. By that reckoning, Hellickson could pitch 186 innings, 11 more than Morrow's slated number. Therefore, though his strikeout rate is much higher than Hellickson's, Morrow will not give you many more strikeouts.
  • Let's talk about messy stuff: wins and ERA. Those stats are wildly unpredictable, and we always counsel owners against "chasing" them. Still, there are certain indices that give us an inkling of what to expect in that regard. Specifically, team defense and park factors go an awfully long way toward helping a pitcher post a good ERA and accrue wins. Tampa's defense is miles better than Toronto's, and the Rogers Centre in Toronto is a more hitter-friendly park than the Tropicana Field in Tampa Bay. Everything is going Hellickson's way.

Closing argument: Philosophically, I love command guys. Walks are nobody's friend in the world of fantasy pitchers, and Morrow gives up too many of them. Hellickson has shown great control throughout his pro career, and because his repertoire boasts a four-seam fastball, two-seamer, cutter, change and curve, I think he can sustain that at the big-league level. I'm not a risk-taker. I will stand by the younger, healthier, better-groomed player and take fewer strikeouts in the middle rounds.

Brandon Morrow, SP, Toronto Blue Jays

Nicholas Minnix

Morrow's fantasy baseball player profile

  • Morrow had a lifetime rate of 4.34 walks per nine in the minors and is at 5.08 in the bigs. You'll hear things like, "Yeah, he improved - to 4.06 BB/9! Oooh, that's really good. Not." Child, please. In his first 10 starts of 2010, Morrow worked overtime to make prescribed adaptations. The proof is in the pudding of his next 15 starts. (Morrow entered his final outing knowing it would be his last and came out pretty flat.) That whole thing with the walks? A sustained 2.99 per nine. Not bad, right?
93 1/3
  • So check this out: Morrow discovered the secret to efficiency and began to go deeper. He cut the BB/9 nearly in half. He threw two fewer pitches per inning. He lasted for nearly 1 1/3 stanzas more per start. He reduced that precious WHIP - you know, "where he'll hurt you" - from 1.70 to 1.16. He did all this while losing little in the K/9 sector (where he effortlessly has the edge) and opponents posted an egregious .342 BABIP against him. (Say it with me: sus-tained.) Fancy-figure folks: For the first time in his career, his FIP and xFIP fell below - well below - 4.00.
  • Toronto Blue Jays SP Brandon Morrow
    Good Morrow
    How is this possible? In the past year or so, Morrow has marched off big paces. Toronto committed to him as a starting pitcher, first and foremost. No more uncertainty. The organization asked him to change his mechanics and philosophy and convinced him that it would benefit the now 26-year-old in the long run. They were also careful with him because of his injury history; the adjustments were also intended to reduce the stress on his arm and body substantially. Result: maturity.
  • Innings limit? The Blue Jays have one in mind. But his newfound effectiveness would easily allow him to exceed that ceiling (approximately 175 frames). More short innings - a lesson in congruency, people - mean fewer long, stressful frames that pile up pitches and exhaust a hurler more quickly. Morrow expects to reach the target earlier than he did last season and have the opportunity to go beyond it.
  • Perhaps no club grooms arms better than the Tampa Bay Rays. Jeremy Hellickson comes to battle with a more impressive statistical toolbox than most of Tampa's prior grads. He carried an impeccable minor league K/BB into the majors. In 10 games. In four starts. Hellickson, 24 in a month, will be darn good at times, but he'll endure some rough patches, too - just like those who have come before him. The combination of his marks in those four outings was better than anything he has ever produced in the minors. Think Hell Boy will keep that up in Pitcher Hades, the AL East?

Closing argument: A year ago, you would have called me a non-believer. Would the fan man ever get past his control rate issues? Well, sir, you can just call me Mrs. Morrow. This argument doesn't even have much to do with Hellickson. He's a young buck with a bright future, but he has much to learn. Instant success is rare and unsustainable, without clairvoyance.

We have always known that Morrow has the talent. Now, he's on a club that's handling him properly and giving him a chance to maximize it. Responses to criticisms of him constitute the defense of a preference for him. Do you like statistical garnish? Or do you like how baseball experience works? Morrow wins on both accounts.

KFFL staff verdict

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Fantasy Baseball Diamond Duels


About Matt Trueblood

Matt is a journalism student at Loyola University Chicago. The guest contributor is a featured Chicago Cubs columnist on the Bleacher Report as well as a contributor to hotstove.com. Matt envisions himself as both a writer and analyst and strives to deliver pieces that are both well-researched and thought-provoking. He work first appeared on KFFL.com in February 2010.

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