Where have you gone Aaron Heilman? (And a contest and a plug)

One of the biggest disappointments last season for the New York Mets was Aaron Heilman. Aaron was one of the greatest college pitchers in his time and the Mets used a first round draft pick for him. In his first 3 years he was mainly used as a starter and has a one hitter complete game in his books. He finished 2007 as the Mets' primary set up man with 3.03 ERA and 1.070 WHIP. Last season he took a huge step back performing at a 5.21 ERA and 1.592 WHIP rate. He definitely is expendable by the Mets and is arbitration eligible. Is he someone that the Twins should consider for their pen?

His biggest problem last year was that, even though he increased his K/9 to a very good 9.47, his K/BB dropped to 1.74. Scouting reports show that his fastball velocity increased to an average of 93.3 mph and was his out pitch, but his change up velocity also increased to 84 mph, making it a less ineffective pitch. In his effective 2007 Heilman threw 62% fastballs, 37.5% changeups and 0.5% sliders. In his ineffective 2008, Heilman developped an unexpected love with his not that effective slider (as an off-spead pitch), throwing it 15% of the time and decreasing his changeup rate to 24%. His changeup has location problems and this was the main reason for the decreased use. Is Heilman "fixable"? Until I looked at the pictures below, I had my questions:



Now I don't. I think that there is a good probability for improvement of his change up and becoming a great set up reliever again.

Any guesses why I think that?

The person who would be the first to guess the answer correctly and completely, would receive a copy of Seth Stohs' Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook – 2009. the best Twins Prospect handbook ever written. And if you do not win, make sure you order one. The price is right and no Twins' fan should be left without it.

I'll close the contest a week from today. And here is a hint: It is not the fact that his BABIP was .326, which is way too high and will certainly go down next year.

EDIT 12/1/2008:

Contest closed. And it was probably more esoteric and hard that I thought... It's all in the grip. In 2007 he was throwing a circle change and for some reason in 2008 he changed (pun not intended) to a three-finger change grip. Also notice that in his 3-finger grip, the index and middle finger are gripping the ball on the seams (like a sinker) instead of gripping across the seams (like a 4-seamer fastball), which is the proper grip for a 3-finger change up.

Not to worry, I ordered five copies of Seth's book and will give 4 of them away in monthly contests before the season starts


Rob said...

My guess is a mechanical issue. It looks like he dropped his elbow a bit. That change could help him locate his change better, making it a more effective pitch.

thrylos98 said...


good guess. But it is not what I was looking for.

I have to indicate the the pictures show him in slightly different parts of the delivery . The top picture is before he winds back his throwing arm and the bottom is just when he is ready to release the ball. And there is a slight camera angle difference. What I look for when I am looking at release points and wind up is the angles of the body around both armpits. As you can see they are pretty consistent.

Take an other guess!

Flaa Family said...

I have no idea why...because the Twins have a great pitching coach in Rick Anderson and we have had great success helping pitchers master the art of the changeup (i.e. Radke, Santana).

Mainly I just wanted to comment to see if I could get a free copy of Seth's book : )

Shameless I know. But in these tough economic times, I'm willing to stoop!