Jeremy Hefner provides nice value for a waiver claim

For a guy who was waived twice following the 2011 season, Jeremy Hefner has been quite a productive pitcher in 2012 for the Mets. Sunday, Hefner pitched into the ninth inning and ended up with a no-decision in a game where he pitched well enough to win. His final line was 8 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB and 7 Ks.

The pessimists can claim that Hefner did that against the Astros, a team that trots out a lineup as bad as the one that the Mets do. And they would be right. But you can only pitch against the team that are scheduled when your turn comes around and in the long run, these things should even out. In his last start, Hefner squared off against the first-place Nationals.

For the season, Hefner has tossed 69.2 innings and has a 4.65 ERA. That’s the sixth-most innings on the staff, which is not bad for a guy who made nine starts in Triple-A and who has 12 relief appearances in the majors this year.

Plus, the ERA is a bit misleading. The National League as a whole has a 3.97 ERA and its starters check in with a 4.05 mark. But Hefner has pitched in some tough luck this season. A slightly elevated BABIP and a slightly depressed strand rate have hurt Hefner in 2012. His xFIP checks in at 4.07 or just slightly (three percent) above league average.

For the price of a waiver claim, the Mets have received essentially league average production from Hefner. If only he was a LF instead of a pitcher.

The question becomes: What happens to Hefner going forward? The Mets seem well-set in SP. Clearly he’s behind Dickey, Gee, Harvey, Niese and Santana in the bid for a slot in the rotation for 2013. Behind him are McHugh and Wheeler in Triple-A who both likely have higher upside. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that the Mets re-sign Mike Pelfrey, much like they did this past offseason with Chris Young. And while Chris Schwinden did not impress this year in New York, he does have a 2.59 ERA in 100.2 IP in Triple-A and cannot be easily dismissed as competition.

Perhaps the easiest thing to do would be to carry Hefner as a traditional long man out of the bullpen. Yet somehow he would seem under-utilized in that role. MLB clubs have given 155 starts to 11 pitchers who carry an xFIP over 5.00 this season. And it’s much worse if you go by ERA.

Still Hefner falls into that gray area where he would likely be an upgrade in the rotation for several teams yet not many clubs are walking around thinking, “If only we had Hefner in our rotation, things would be a lot better.”

So, barring a trade of another Mets SP, Hefner is likely to open 2013 in the Mets’ pen. And with the health concerns around Gee and Santana in particular and pitchers in general, that’s a nice thing for the Mets to have.

Overall I’m glad the Mets went to a six-man rotation to give more starts to Hefner here in 2012. I look forward to see what he does in his start next week, which likely will happen sometime in the three-game series against the Marlins. And with around five starts remaining in the year, it’s not impossible Hefner will do enough down the stretch to make him interesting enough to another club in the offseason.

10 comments for “Jeremy Hefner provides nice value for a waiver claim

  1. steevy
    August 27, 2012 at 11:37 am

    Pity the pathetic offense couldn’t get him a win yesterday.

  2. steevy
    August 27, 2012 at 11:39 am

    Oh well,if the franchise is going to continue down this path,they may as well keep the right manager for the job.

    There’s “no chance” the Mets will make manager Terry Collins a scapegoat for the team’s disappointing second half and fire him this offseason or before the regular season ends, a team source told Mike Puma of the New York Post. An extension is possible for Collins, who’s under contract through 2013.

  3. August 27, 2012 at 11:41 am

    Great article. We have some real cause for optimism in pitching in 2013.

  4. August 27, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    I’ve always liked this kid from the moment he threw his first pitch wearing blue and orange, and I think it’s because he goes after hitters. He doesn’t have the unbelievable stuff to blow it past hitters or leave them flailing at air, but he knows what he has to do to win.

    I wish he was better in the bullpen, but that was clearly a failed experiment for 2012. Maybe they can try again in 2013 now that he has a little more ML seasoning, but I don’t understand why mess with success. If they can find a way to make him into a reliever who pitches several innings in consecutive games, I could get on-board with that. Maybe have him get the ball to the setup man on a regular basis and slide in to the No. 5 spot when a starter goes down?

    • August 27, 2012 at 4:28 pm

      It’s pretty rare for relief pitcher to go several innings in consecutive games anymore. Ramon Ramirez did it for the Mets on April 26 & 27 (3.2 IP total) but neither Acosta nor Edgin did this in 2012.

  5. Metsense
    August 27, 2012 at 2:23 pm

    It has been a good week for young Met starters. Harvey appears to be at least a #3 starter in 2013 and Niese is pitching like a #2 starter. McHugh had a real nice game, but unless he has a great September I see him starting at AAA and being the insurance starter. He needs to have some success at AAA. Hefner had a good game Sunday but he would have to put together an outstanding September to be considered a 5th starter. I see him and Schwinden competing for the long man out of the bullpen spot on the roster. Dickey/Niese/Harvey/Santana/Gee with McHugh/Harvey/Mejia/Familia/Schwinden waiting in Buffalo if an injury occurs. If the Mets resign Young and Pelfry (on the Mets terms)then they have more options to trade for a RH power outfielder. You never have enough pitching.

    • August 27, 2012 at 4:38 pm

      Assuming the starting five in Citi is: Dickey, Gee, Harvey, Niese, Santana and that Hefner is the long man in the bullpen — then you have seven starting pitchers who should be in Triple-A.

      Wheeler, Mejia, Familia, Schwinden, McHugh, Gorski and Cohoon.

      I guess you could make Cohoon into a reliever but the guy had a 3.48 ERA and an 1.158 WHIP in Double-A, totals not screaming out for a conversion to the pen. It’ll be curious to see how it works out. A trade of 1 or 2 SP seems more and more likely.

      • Metsense
        August 27, 2012 at 5:38 pm

        Tyler Pill/Rafael Montero/Jacob DeGrom/Michael Fulmer/Logan Verrett and Domingo Tapia all A Minors starters and the Mets are really stocked. With all these starters, Brian, some will be major league bullpen pitchers and you will get your wish of Met relievers being able to start and finish one inning. The Mets also have surplus to trade.

  6. August 27, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    We have a lot to be excited about for next year even if we remove Santana from the mix. Gee is a question mark but if he is healthy…hmm.

    Zach Wheeler might make the team.
    Matt Harvey
    Colin McHugh could be something special, control, ground ball pitcher, smart.

    Jeremy Hefner could be the perfect long middle relief guy.

  7. Name
    August 27, 2012 at 7:22 pm

    Unlike you guys, i haven’t really been that impressed with Hefner. Maybe it’s because he has been jerked around from the Starting rotation to the bullpen multiple times coupled in with a few trips to and from Buffalo that has contributed to his lack of stellar stats.

    I really don’t think that Sunday’s start was meaningful at all in evaluating him because they ARE the Astros. I’m guessing quite a few of his September starts will also be meaningless as well to because teams that are out of contentions may want to play their callups.
    However, that’s not to say it isn’t important whether he does good or bad. Confidence is very important in any profession, possibly even more for something like sports. If he can get good outings in maybe that will help him believe that he belongs and no matter where he ends up next year, he will have strong confidence that he can do his job.

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