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Orioles’ starting rotation went from bad to worse after adding Jeremy Hellickson

Acquired at the trade deadline from the Phillies, Jeremy Hellickson did his part to support one of the Orioles’ worst rotations in years.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at New York Yankees Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

When I first received this assignment to write about Jeremy Hellickson’s 2017 season with the Orioles, I was tempted to submit the headline, “Hellickson’s contributions as an Oriole,” along with a blank page of copy. That would about sum it up, but instead I chose to share a few observations to show just how bad Hellickson played while wearing the black and orange.

Of course we all know that the right-handed pitcher came to Baltimore in a trade with the Phillies just before the July 31 deadine. This was a time when fans were waiting to see if the Birds would be buyers or sellers with two months left in the season and the team just a few games back of the second wild card.

The news of Hellickson joining the flailing Orioles’ rotation indicated that they would be buyers … sort of. Did anyone – including Dan Duquette – expect Hellickson to really put the team over the top?

No matter the expectations, he was added to help solidify a rotation that was drowning. At least that was Dan Duquette’s wish. A wish not grounded in realistic expectations, given Hellickson’s 4.73 ERA in Philadelphia in 2017, and an ERA of at least 4.52 in three of his previous four seasons.

Duquette’s wish didn’t come true. In fact, Hellickson’s time with the Orioles was so bad that he became only the sixth Orioles pitcher since 2010 to own a six-plus ERA while throwing at least 50 innings (see list below).

His bloated 6.97 mark ranks him third, but of course, it would look even worse if he weren’t joined by two of his 2017 teammates. Chris Tillman tops the list with a this-can’t-be-right ERA of 7.84, and Ubaldo Jimenez finished his final season as an Oriole with a mark of 6.81. No wonder the 2017 team ERA of 4.97 was the highest since 2009.

The undistinguished company Hellickson is keeping:

  • Chris Tillman (2017) - 7.84 ERA
  • Bud Norris (2015) - 7.06 ERA
  • Jeremy Hellickson (2017) - 6.97 ERA
  • Ubaldo Jimenez (2017) - 6.81 ERA
  • Jake Arrieta (2012) - 6.20 ERA
  • Wade Miley (2016) - 6.17

But don’t let these numbers distract from just how bad Hellickson was for the 2017 team.

He started strongly for the Orioles, pitching 13 innings in his first two starts with a 2.08 ERA – including seven innings of shutout ball in a 6-0 win against the Royals in his Orioles debut. Across these two games, he struck out 12 and allowed just two walks and no home runs. For this brief amount of time, Duquette was looking like a genius.

From that point on, Hellickson couldn’t maintain much consistency and won just one of his final eight starts. Three were barely quality starts, but his inability to pitch effectively the second and third time through the order did him in.

Here’s his Oriole ERA in those situations:

  • 1st time through the order: 2.36
  • 2nd time: 7.58
  • 3rd time: 7.90

These troubling numbers, along with a sharp decline in his K/9 rate since coming to the Orioles spelled doom for Hellickson. After sporting a strong 8.1 K/9 rate for the Phillies in July, Hellickson struck out just 5.8 per nine in August and 4.7 in four September starts.

His ERA in those last eight games was a frightening 8.61. He walked 15 and struck out 19, while giving up 13 homers in just 38.2 innings pitched. Turns out, Dan Duquette sure wasn’t any genius.