Jeremy Hefner’s Jekyl and Hyde performance linked to HR allowed

Jeremy Hefner’s overall numbers look poor this year (0-3, 4.34 ERA) but he’s pitched much better than his record indicates. He’s made five starts – and one horrid relief appearance – and three of them he’s pitched well enough to win. All three of those outings were Quality Starts and in them he threw 21 IP and allowed 4 ER.

The good news for Hefner is that two of his three strong starts have come in his last two appearances. The bad news is that while he’s heating up – so is top prospect Zack Wheeler down in Triple-A. It’s unlikely that the Mets would call up Wheeler before the end of this month, yet it’s probable a promotion will be following soon after, should Wheeler continue to pitch well.

Meanwhile, Hefner was not supposed to be part of the starting rotation at the beginning of the year and it’s likely that he’ll be the first one removed from the rotation unless he separates himself from the others over his next few starts. So, it’s not good enough to just have a 60% QS percentage – he’s going to have to break into the win column if he wants to remain as a starter.

So, what’s been the problem for Hefner in 2013? He gave up a solo homer in six innings in his first start this year but came out with a loss. His next start he allowed 2 HR in 3 IP in Philadelphia and a trend was born. Because of the weather, combined with the frequent off days of the early April schedule, Hefner went eight days before his next appearance, this one a one-inning stint out of the pen in Colorado, where he allowed two more homers.

Two days later, Hefner started against the Nationals and surrendered two more home runs. That brought his season total to seven homers in four games, covering 14 innings. We know that in the long haul for most pitchers, home runs are a direct result over how many fly balls you surrender. A typical HR/FB ratio is in the 10-11 percent range. In this brief sample, Hefner allowed 7 HR on 20 fly balls.

We would have expected Hefner to allow two homers in this span.

However, in his next two games, opposing batters hit 12 fly balls and had zero home runs. This brings his season total to 32 fly balls and seven homers. That’s still a 21.9 HR/FB ratio – about double what we would expect. But with the home runs in check in his last two outings, Hefner allowed just 3 ER in his last 15 IP yet came away with an 0-1 record.

Four of the homers allowed came in Philadelphia and Colorado, traditionally two of the most hitter-friendly parks in the majors. Add in the weather and the erratic usage issues and the number of homers allowed seems understandable, if not quite forgivable.

But it’s hard not to see the corollary. In his three good starts, Hefner allowed 1 HR in 21 IP. In his three poor outings, he surrendered 6 HR in 8 IP.

Of course we also have to look at his opponents in these games. In two of his three good starts, Hefner went up against the Marlins and the other good outing came against the Dodgers, who currently sit with a 13-19 record, hardly what they expected given their payroll obligations.

Even if Hefner only pitches well against the poor teams in the league, there’s a lot of value to be gained from a fifth starter dominating half the teams in the league. Hefner goes up against an AL foe Wednesday night, when he squares off against the 13-18 White Sox. Last night, Matt Harvey made Chicago look like an A-ball league club, just missing a perfect game when he allowed an infield single.

No one belittled Harvey’s tremendous outing by pointing out that it came against a sub-.500 team. If Hefner makes it three straight strong starts, it would probably be best to extend him the same courtesy. Regardless, it would certainly help his case to remain in the rotation going forward if he would crack into the win column.

And keeping the ball in the park will probably go a long way for Hefner in that end.

6 comments for “Jeremy Hefner’s Jekyl and Hyde performance linked to HR allowed

  1. Chris F
    May 8, 2013 at 5:48 pm

    Hef for better or worse is at best a 5 guy, but more likely not suitable for a competitive ball club. Sure Harvey beat the Sox with a stupid stick, but he’s also gone toe to toe against Straz. Hef’s propensity to serve up the big fly puts that much more pressure on our anemic offense. I like Hef and hope he continues on his present course and proves me wrong. Will he be in the rotation in ’15? I wouldn’t bet on it.

    • May 8, 2013 at 7:01 pm

      I think you’re selling Hefner short but I certainly wouldn’t mind if some combination of Wheeler, Montero, Syndergaard, Fulmer, Mazzoni and Tapia join Harvey and Niese to make up the ’15 rotation.

    • Metsense
      May 9, 2013 at 7:50 am

      If Heffner is ìn the 2015 rotation it could be because the Mets traded the excess young pitching prospects for position players. Heffner gives innings, quality starts and is only 27. He won’t bring back much iin a trade so on an iimproved offensive/defensive team he is quite serviceable.
      Last night was a game that shows how defense matters. Ike’s sure hit became an out and no RBI and Konerko’s bloop double a 2 RBI situation. Reverse that and it is a different ballgame. Yes, I realize that Konerko’s would have been a great catch just like Ike’s was. The other night Duda (Niese game) had a difficult play that wasn’t made and rightfully ruled a non error. A good catch changes things.Defense , to me, are the hits you turn into outs and the outs that become hits. This pitching deserves a better defensive team. Someone in the front office kept MDD around all ST for a reason, I hope he has more influence when we trade for players.

      • Chris F
        May 9, 2013 at 8:20 am

        Absolutely true Metsense. If you get the chance to watch the replay of game 5 from the ’69 WS (it’s in the classic games section of the At Bat app), you’ll see great color commentary before the game by Koufax and Mantle. Several gems come out: Mantle said Swoboda’s catch was the best he had ever seen…and DiMaggio sitting with Kuhn in the stands said the same thing! Koufax said about Seaver’s start the game before was great, but he said he started “throwing” and not pitching when he slightly missed a pitch in the 9th (if I recall) and allowed a base hit to Frank Robinson. Lastly, and to your point Metsense, Koufax said there’s no such thing as good pitching without good defense…which led to replays of catches by Jones, Swoboda etc.

        I couldn’t agree more. We need real defensive talent, and our outfield is as threadbare as can be on both offense an defense.

  2. Dan Stack
    May 9, 2013 at 5:49 am

    Alas, he gave up a lead-off home run and lost again. He’s not terrible but certainly not great. I’ll talk more about him in my next piece.

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