Second-half stat storylines: Jeremy Hefner

Charles LeClaire/USA Today Sports

Jeremy Hefner has been among the best in baseball the last six weeks.A look at five statistical storylines for one of the biggest surprises of the first half, Jeremy Hefner, as the second half begins with his start against the Phillies tonight.

Getting off to a good start

Hefner will open against the Phillies and will be looking for better than what he’s done in the past against them. In 16 1/3 career innings, he’s allowed 21 runs, most notably the seven-run, no-out game against them last season.

Jeremy Hefner
2013 Season

In two starts in 2013, Hefner has allowed eight runs (seven earned) in nine innings, and scattered 10 hits and three runs in six innings against them on June 21.

Key for Hefner will be handling the Phillies' lefty bats, though Ryan Howard won’t be among them due to injury. In the two starts this season, Phillies lefties are 13-for-25 against him.

Hefner has been great against lefties since his last start against the Phillies, holding them to four hits in 32 at-bats.

The streak

Hefner has run off eight straight starts in which he’s allowed two earned runs or fewer, a streak that sounds a little more impressive than it is considering that in four of the eight games, he pitched five or six innings and that in three of the starts he allowed three runs or more, with some being unearned.

Nonetheless, it’s a good run. The only Mets pitcher to go on a longer run of starts of five innings or more and two earned runs or fewer since 2000 was Johan Santana bridging the end of 2008 and the start of 2009 (13 straight).

The more impressive streak would be if Hefner can extend his run of starts of seven innings or more, allowing four hits or fewer. He’s done that in three straight starts.

Only five Mets have had longer runs: Nolan Ryan (5 in 1971), Matt Harvey (5 in 2012-2013, Dwight Gooden (4 in 1985), Rick Reed (4 in 1999-2000) and Kevin Appier (4 in 2001).

Fastball velocity

Adam Rubin wrote earlier about the mechanical change that led to an improvement in Hefner’s fastball velocity.

Opponents vs Hefner’s Fastball
2013 Season

It’s one that has bumped the pitch from an average of 90 mph in his first eight appearances of the season to 91 mph in his last 11.

The chart on the right shows the difference for Hefner this season. The harder he throws, the more success he’s apt to have with the pitch.

We'll see if that velocity can be maintained. Hefner is at 93 innings with probably 13 or 14 starts remaining. His career high for innings is 167 2/3 in Double-A in 2010, a mark he should surpass by a little, though not too much this season.

Who's catching?

Anthony Recker seems to have turned into Hefner’s personal catcher and for good reason. In Hefner’s seven appearances with Recker, he’s posted a 1.88 ERA and opponents are hitting .185 against him. In 12 games with John Buck, Hefner’s ERA is 4.50 and his opponents’ batting average is .273.

0-for- ...

Hefner was 0-for-27 at the plate in the first half, matching the worst first-half 0-for in Mets history (Al Leiter, 2003).

The Mets record for hitting futility is held by Randy Tate, who was 0-for-41 in 1975. The big-league mark of 0-for-70 was set by Bob Buhl, a pitcher for the Milwaukee Braves in 1962 and is safely out of Hefner’s reach.