Today, Rising Apple’s Season In Review takes a look at starting pitcher Jeremy Hefner. He was drafted by the Mets in both 2004 and 2005, but failed to sign with the club each time. In the 2007 draft, the San Diego Padres made Jeremy Hefner their fifth round selection. After four years in the Padres system, Hefner made his way to New York in December of 2011, when Sandy Alderson claimed him off waivers from the Pittsburgh Pirates, who only one month earlier had claimed him from San Diego.
In 2012, Hefner was pressed into major league service as injuries continued having their way with Mets pitching. In 26 appearances, he made 13 starts and finished with a 5.09 ERA in 93.2 innings pitched. Although he allowed 110 hits, as a rookie he kept his walks low, struck out 62 batters, and limited the opposition to nine home runs.
Heading into the 2013 season, Johan Santana‘s surgery and rehabilitation plus the Mets’ decision to let Mike Pelfrey walk created two openings in the starting rotation. One spot went to stop gap free agent Shaun Marcum. The other spot boiled down to an in-house choice between Jeremy Hefner and Collin McHugh. Hefner was given the nod and McHugh was eventually traded to the Colorado Rockies for Eric Young.
How he did on the mound:
We’ll start with the back of his baseball card. In 24 appearances (23 starts), Hefner posted a 4-8 record with a 4.34 ERA. He pitched 130.2 total innings, allowed 132 hits, walked 37, struck out 99 batters, and had a 1.29 WHIP. Most glaring of all were his 20 home runs allowed.
The Mets were 7-17 in games Hefner pitched – an ugly stat. Here’s what really happened:
Having made the club out of Spring Training, Hefner’s 2013 regular season did not start well. Between April 5th and May 18th, he posted an 0-5 record and a 5.00 ERA over 45 innings pitched. In his first four appearances alone, he surrendered seven home runs.
Hefner persevered, and between May 24th and July 12th, reeled off ten very impressive starts in which he failed to pitch less than six innings only once. He began July hurling seven innings in three consecutive starts, and four times total. Hefner posted a 4-1 record with five no-decisions, and a 2.10 ERA. He allowed 54 hits in 64 innings pitched, but he did surrender seven more home runs. He walked ten batters and struck out 52. This run on of success started on May 24th, when Hefner had a 4.76 ERA. Ten starts later, Hefner’s ERA had dropped to a very respectable 3.33 mark. Most importantly, this performance came with Jonathon Niese out of the rotation with an ailing shoulder.
On July 19th, Hefner’s season began to implode. In his 19th start, he got roughed up for eight earned runs on ten hits in just two innings pitched. He followed that up with ten innings over two more troubling starts, in which he allowed eight runs on ten hits, three home runs, walked six, and struck out seven.
Hefner seemingly rebounded on August 3rd with a six inning effort that went for a no-decision, in which he allowed three runs on eight hits, but walked no batters and struck out six. On August 9th, Jeremy Hefner pitched his last game of the regular season. After that start, he was shut down with pain in his elbow. That pain was later diagnosed, and Hefner underwent Tommy John surgery which will keep him out for most, if not all of the 2014 season.
One last note regarding Jeremy Hefner’s 2013 performance – In 12 no-decisions, he pitched 65.1 innings and posted a 3.59 earned run average.
Areas To Improve Upon:
Before we get to Hefner’s greater issue, the Mets right hander simply needs to do a better job of keeping opposing hitters inside the park. The greater conversation involves pitch selection and execution, and even his repertoire. Isn’t that the case with any pitcher? At 27 years old, and the veteran of six minor league seasons, no one is exactly rushing to give Hefner a hug for being thrust into the limelight of New York City due to the Mets’ pitching shortages. Let’s just not sell his efforts short. I admit, I find it difficult to not have any compassion for him.
Projected Role For 2014:
The reason for Jeremy Hefner’s sudden August drop off was revealed almost immediately. On August 23rd, Hefner underwent Tommy John surgery to repair a partially torn MCL in his pitching elbow. He, like Matt Harvey will miss most, if not all of the 2014 season.
The Mets have pitching depth on the way from the minor leagues. By the time Hefner returns, he will face new, stiffer competition for a starting job – and that’s assuming his rehab goes well.
Contract Status And Trade Rumors:
Hefner is under team control, and any trade possibilities are put on hold until further notice due to his injury. He’s not eligible for salary arbitration until 2016.