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Sunday, July 7, 2013
Hefner's run a combo of skill, luck

By Mark Simon

How good has Jeremy Hefner been in his last seven starts? At the time of his departure after seven innings with the Mets leading the Brewers 2-1, Hefner’s ERA in that span was 1.64, the best of any pitcher in the major leagues.

In fact, the Mets had three pitchers among the top 25 within that timeframe. Matt Harvey was 15th (2.48) and Dillon Gee 24th (2.70).

What have been the statistical keys in Hefner's run? Here are three of them:

Strikeout/Walk Ratio
In this seven-start stretch, Hefner has 37 strikeouts and only eight walks. He’s slightly increased his strikeout rate from what it was prior to this streak, but the big difference is in the walk rate, which has dropped from eight percent of batters faced to four percent of hitters faced.

Vital to this has been a jump in first-pitch strike rate. Hefner’s 67.4 percent first-pitch strike rate in these last seven starts is a jump of six percentage points from earlier this season. He’s thrown them at an 80 percent or better clip in two of his last three starts.

Hefner has thrown nearly as many pitches with runners in scoring position in these last seven starts as he did in his first 11 games.

But the results have been vastly different.

The chart on the right shows how Hefner has been able to manage innings and limit the damage against him when things get a little hairy.

Most noticeably, he's turned around his strikeout and walk numbers.

And he's nearly doubled the frequency of how often he gets ground balls.

More At-'em Balls
In his first 11 appearances this season, Hefner allowed 28 line drives, and those 28 resulted in 21 base hits.

In these last seven starts, Hefner has allowed 28 line drives and they’ve resulted in only 14 base hits.

Case in point for Hefner: The two line drives the Brewers hit today, one by Sean Halton and the other by Juan Francisco, resulted in outs to David Wright and Daniel Murphy.