Every single pitch Hellickson throws lost some velocity in 2019 compared to 2018, including his changeup (79.76 mph in 2019 vs. 81.1 mph in 2018). There’s still a nearly 10 mph difference between this pitch and his fastball, but Hellickson will either need to double down on his pitch accuracy to combat this decline as he enters his 11th season in the majors or get completely healthy and recapture his lost velocity.
Hellickson significantly scaled back the use of his curveball in 2019 to 13.33% compared to his career-high 23.3% rate in 2018. This is more in line with his career average of 15.2% usage, but the average velocity dipped nearly 3 mph from 76.6 mph in 2018 to 73.8 mph in 2019.
Hellickson’s fastball continues to lose velocity year over year, averaging out at 88.73 mph in 2019. He was never a fireballer by any stretch of the imagination, topping out at 91.4 mph in 2012, but it looks like he’s lost that velocity for good.
Hellickson turned to his cutter far more often in 2019, throwing it 18.07% of the time compared to 10.5% of the time in 2018. Before joining the Phillies in 2016, the only season he threw this pitch more than 1.2% of the time was back in 2012 for the Rays, when he threw it 7.0% of the time. Since then, the lowest usage rate was 9.3% in his only full season with the Phillies.
A positive pitch in 2018 according to pVal, Hellickson’s fastball is designed to induce contact (85 contact%) in the air (45.8 FB%). This worked better to a certain degree in 2018, with a fantastic 45.5 IFFB%, but also saw a big jump in HR/FB% from 11.9% to 18.2%.
Hellickson’s best pitch in 2018 according to pVal (5.8 Runs Saved), his changeup had near-elite results with a 42.1 O-swing% and a 14.9 SwStr%. In addition, it had a 50% ground-ball percentage, limited hitters to a mere 46 wRC+, and held a miniscule 5.6 HR/FB%
Hellickson’s curveball garnered a 1.3 pVal in 2018. It limited hitters to a 90 wRC+ and a .212 average, mainly by luring opponents to chase it out of the zone 36.2% of the time and inducing ground balls 63.5% of the time.
Meant to induce weak fly-ball contact (91.7 Contact% and a 37.5 FB%), Hellickson’s cutter had an elite 40 IFFB%, while leaving the park way less often than his four-seamer.