Jeremy Hefner pitched six innings of strong baseball in Philadelphia on Friday night to help propel the New York Mets to a 4-3 victory over their National League East rival Philadelphia Phillies. Hefner allowed three runs, two earned, on 10 hits while striking out six in the process. Friday’s start marked his sixth consecutive start in which he allowed three earned runs or less, but also served as his third consecutive start in which he has allowed an unearned run.
Traditionalists may point to the earned run as the most telling statistic of a pitcher’s true nature. If a pitcher was unable to pitch to a certain situation, make the necessary adjustments to record a strikeout, or was simply beaten, the earned run and corresponding average helps to pinpoint a pitcher’s worth through measuring the average of how many runs a pitcher allows per nine innings of baseball. Hefner is now sporting a very respectable 3.89 ERA through his 14th start of the year, but there has been an alarming trend in the unearned runs he has allowed.
The Oklahoman watched as the St. Louis Cardinals pummeled him on June 11th for six runs, only one of which was earned, before he exited after six innings. Hefner’s next outing against the Chicago Cubs saw similar but less drastic results as three runs scored under his watch while only one was earned. Hefner “allowed” three runs to score on Friday night, but only two were counted against his ERA. That’s a staggering eight unearned runs that have scored during Hefner’s last three outings.
While the Mets’ poor defensive alignments may often cost the club’s pitching the opportunity to succeed (See: Marcum, Shaun), is Hefner truly unlucky? While poor defense appears to have hurt him, he has found luck on his side more often than not this year.
Through his first 13 starts in 2013, Hefner’s 4.68 FIP rested nearly one full run higher than his 3.96 ERA, suggesting that if all settings were equal he would have less desirable results on the mound. However, since no one statistic is truly comprehensive, there are other measures that can be examined to help determine if Hefner has been (un)lucky beyond defense to help support his FIP.
Hefner’s 1.31 WHIP through 13 starts was equivalent to that of Arizona’s Ian Kennedy and only one-hundreth of one point worse than Miami’s Kevin Slowey. Hefner and Kennedy have very similar peripherals: Hefner’s K/BB ratio is 2.43 while Kennedy’s is slightly higher at 2.52. Although Kennedy has a larger sample size, they have both allowed 1.1 home runs per nine in their careers, but Hefner is slightly ahead of Kennedy this year in allowing 1.4 HR/9 against Kennedy’s 1.5 HR/9. The only real metric that Kennedy has a distinct advantage over Hefner is his ability to strike batters out at nearly one more batter per nine innings. Despite this, Kennedy’s ERA is a much larger 5.21-but he owns a 4.79 FIP- which suggests that his ERA is inflated and he has suffered from some poor luck on the mound.
Slowey boasts a fairly average 4.10 ERA in 2013 that almost perfectly supports his 4.09 FIP. His peripherals tell a slightly different story in that they’re similar to both pitchers (Slowey has allowed 1.37 HR/9 and 7.29 K/9), but Slowey’s exceptional control has allowed him to record nearly over 4 1/2 per strikeout, nearly double that of both Hefner and Kennedy. Ultimately, Slowey should be considered the most reliable of the bunch this season despite a slightly inflated ERA, but the case on Hefner has yet to be solved: Has he been unlucky?
The results show that Hefner himself has actually been lucky on the mound. He doesn’t strike out a tremendous amount of batters but manages to produce quality results through controlling his arsenal and limiting his walks. Much like Slowey, the fewer walks he allows the more efficient he becomes. The 27-year-old has only allowed three walks over his last 18 innings and therefore has been able to limit the opposing offense to only thee earned runs. He has performed well in spite of his defense, and continues to improve his performance.
Photo Credit: Michael Baron
Hefner tweeted about his performance following the Mets’ victory in Philadelphia on Friday night. Make sure to follow Hefner at @Jeremy_Hefner53 on Twitter.
Thanks to the @Mets fans making the trip down! Guys played well.. Big hits by EY and Juan! And the pen closed it down! #LGM #winningisfun
— Jeremy Hefner (@jeremy_hefner53) June 22, 2013