On September 20th, Jeremy Hefner made his first start in 12 days and was obliterated. He gave up 7 ER and did not record an out. The start was so discouraging that it called into question his usefulness going forward. But in his very next start, Hefner rebounded with seven shutout innings. He now has 12 starts for the Mets this year and in seven of those games, Hefner has delivered a Quality Start. On the flip side, four times he has put the Mets behind the 8-ball by giving up a bunch of runs early. His other remaining start falls in the middle, as he allowed 4 ER in 5.2 IP. Not great but not quite disastrous, either.
So, what do we make of Hefner going forward? His ERA here in 2012 is 5.32 which is hardly anything to get excited about. Yet we have seen that more often than not, Hefner has delivered a start which has kept his team in the game. But overall how does that rate among other pitchers? Among National League hurlers, there are 92 pitchers who have 75 or more innings. Hefner ranks 84th in ERA with his 5.32 mark.
But some of those pitchers are relievers and Hefner has appeared out of the pen this season, too. If we limit our sample to pitchers who have made at least 10 starts, there are 95 pitchers in the NL who fit this requirement and Hefner ranks 84th in ERA.
With 16 teams in the NL, this puts Hefner as one of the best “sixth starters” in the league, if you figure that the top 80 starters would be the five-man rotations for each club (a total of 80 pitchers). And that’s just based on raw ERA, neglecting that for the most part, Hefner has bunched his runs in a handful of awful starts. Hefner has provided much more value with 7 QS than if he had delivered his 5.32 ERA equally among all of his performances.
Hefner was a giant question mark coming into the season, especially as he was counted on along with Chris Schwinden to be one of the club’s top options as a fill-in starter. While Schwinden stumbled when he got his shot, Hefner has filled in admirably. He’s likely to open 2013 as the long man in the pen and will be the first one counted on to pick up the slack should one of the starters get hurt.
WRIGHT’S RESURGENCE – After going 194 PA with just 1 HR, David Wright has hit 4 HR in his last nine games. In addition to his power surge, Wright has also cut down on his whiffs in this span. He has 4 Ks in 36 PA for an 11.11 K%, an excellent rate. Not surprisingly, Wright has a .934 OPS in this stretch. Another thing that likely will not surprise you is that the Mets are 6-3 in these games. In the first half when Wright was hot, the Mets were winning. When he went into the tank in July and August, the Mets followed him down the drain. There’s no way to sugar coat it – the Mets need a productive Wright to be a good team.
RAUCH’S GOPHER BALL TROUBLES – After a rough patch from mid-May to early-June, Jon Rauch turned in over three months of outstanding pitching, as he posted a 1.21 ERA over a 40-game span. But here recently, things have turned for Rauch, as he’s allowed HR in three consecutive games. Rauch still has a slightly below-average HR/FB rate but there’s no doubt he’s experienced some regression the past two-plus weeks – as he also gave up a homer on 9/12. Last year Rauch had a 12.9 HR/FB mark which led to a 4.85 ERA. Keep that in mind before you get too eager for Sandy Alderson to re-sign Rauch for 2013.
MURPHY GETS THE JOB DONE AT 2B – Since making an error on September 8th, Daniel Murphy has gone 17 games without committing an “E” in the field. Now errors are not the end-all, be-all of fielding performance but it’s good to see Murphy go through this stretch. He looks more and more comfortable turning the double play and surprisingly, the advanced defensive metrics define his range as his biggest problem in the field. Murphy previously has exhibited plus range in the field. Murphy is playing too deep in the field and once he moves back to normal depth, we should see his range improve. We’ve already seen him move in to just a few steps on the grass. When he actually plays on the dirt, it will be a good sign.
YOUNG REBOUNDS IN SEPTEMBER – Like all Mets pitchers, Chris Young struggled in July. However, while the rest of the staff straightened out in August, Young continued his poor pitching. In his first nine games after the All-Star break, going through August 28th, Young had a 5.59 ERA and the Mets lost seven of his starts. But once the calendar turned to September, Young shook off his slump. He’s hurled a QS in three of his four games this month and he has a 2.66 ERA in 23.2 IP.
TEJADA HAS 9-GAME HITTING STREAK – Early in September, Ruben Tejada could not buy a hit. His AVG had been in a steady freefall and not only did it appear that he would fail to hit .300 it looked like he might not even maintain a .280 mark. But Tejada now has 15 hits in his last nine games and has his AVG back up to .295 for the year.
RUNS SPLITS – Thanks in part to scoring six runs in each of their last four games, the Mets have scored 85 runs in the month of September, an average of 3.54 runs per game. In games where the Mets top their average and score four or more runs, they are 9-3 this month. However, when they score three or fewer runs their record is 1-11.