Being called the next Roy Oswalt generally bodes well. Being 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA after two seven-inning, three-hit starts to begin your career is even better. Welcome to Rays phenom Jeremy Hellickson's world.
To be fair, not everybody who kills it in his major league debut becomes a Hall of Famer. Juan Marichal, the pitcher with the best debut ever — a complete-game one-hitter — is far more the exception than the rule.
Two other guys who matched Hellickson with seven-inning, two-run, three-hit performances to begin their careers: Jason Isringhausen and Carl Pavano. Guys who were ultimately far worse than that — Masato Yoshii, Ricky Bones and Steve Woodard — had even better beginnings.
But, the kid from Des Moines, Iowa, who they call "Hellboy" doesn't look like he's getting lucky. He looks like he's just that good.
Much like his namesake's movie franchise, the second installment was even better than the first — seven innings, three hits, zero runs on only 86 pitches in Tuesday's shutout of the Tigers.
One of the first thing you notice about Hellickson is that he has one of those "what is he doing?" deliveries. His elbow dips and it looks like he's pushing the ball off of his shoulder like a shot-put. It's not as odd as Hideo Nomo's windup or Jeff Bagwell's squat, but there's no way you can miss it.
You'd be mad at every pitching coach that ever went near the guy, except for how well it works. His pitches also move like he's throwing a Wiffle Ball As for his release point, it couldn't be more consistent.
His control is there, too. In his first start, he threw 14 of his 17 breaking balls for strikes. He went 25-of-27 on changeups in his second start.
Overall, two thirds of his pitches are strikes, he has kept his pitch count down and he's striking out almost a batter an inning.
Perhaps what is best about Hellickson, though, is his location. When he does throw balls, he keeps them either low and away or unhittably inside. When he throws high, he's not getting beat. All six hits against him so far have been low and inside in the zone. It's hard to blame him for those.
So is he Oswalt?
There are a few differences. Hellickson is currently a three-pitch pitcher: fastball, changeup, curveball, with his fastball being his best pitch and his breaking ball his work in progress.
Oswalt, on the other hand, is a four-pitch guy, featuring both a slider and curveball. The 2010 edition of the "Wizard of Os" is just about equally effective with all of his options, but the young Oswalt was definitely more dominant with his fastball. He, also, throws harder than Hellickson does, though neither are Stephen Strasburg.
With his movement and odd delivery, Hellboy doesn't need to throw that hard.
With the injuries to Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann, Hellickson couldn't be more valuable in Tampa, and if he keeps on dominating, they may have to consider him for their playoff roster, at least for the bullpen.
The Rays sure have a way of constantly coming up with young arms. Look out for Matt Moore not-so-far down the road.
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