LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla.-- Vince Velasquez wants to throw a better curveball in 2017.
He has an excellent resource in Jeremy Hellickson, who allowed five hits, two runs and struck out one in four innings in a 3-2 loss Wednesday afternoon at Champion Stadium. Hellickson throws one of the best curveballs in baseball. Batters hit just .160 with a .264 slugging percentage against it last season.
It is no coincidence that Hellickson's curveball had the best average spin rate (2,970 rpm) in the game, according to Statcast™. To put that into perspective, the average spin rate on curveballs last season was 2,462 rpm.
The higher the spin rate, the more the ball dives on the batter.
"I just started using a grip halfway through my season in Arizona [in 2015]," Hellickson said of the pitch's effectiveness. "I started to get more comfortable with it. I found a release point with it. I had been working on it for a while, but it just never felt good enough to throw in a game."
Hellickson mentioned how former Rays teammates James Shields and David Price threw breaking balls that spiked into the ground. Perhaps Hellickson can inspire a few Phillies pitchers to throw theirs like that as well.
Velasquez said last week he needs to improve the pitch. Batters hit .297 with a .591 slugging percentage against his curveball last year. Its spin rate (2,420 rpm) ranked 74th out of 117 pitchers that threw it 200 or more times.
Hellickson said he and Velasquez speak often about the pitch.
"If he gets that going he's going to be tough," Hellickson said.