Welcome back, Pitcher Profile nation! I am glad to be back home after a fantastic trip to DC where I got to see my Brewers go 1-1 on the 3rd and 4th and score a handful of runs. Given it was against Ross Detwiler and Taylor Jordan (along with help from some Drew Storen trouble) – but it was nice to see some good O in person.
Then the Brewers go back home to face the Mess, and while having some decent offense early in the series, we got absolutely stymied by Jeremy Hefner yesterday afternoon. I didn’t watch too much of the game, I was busy gawking at my boyfriend Corey Kluber, so I had yet to see much of how Hefner looked. Then I got a tweet from Sky bringing me in on a Tehol question asking: “Am I supposed to know who this Heffer dude is on the Mets?” My response: “Only watched an inning today, stuff looked better than earlier this year but not overwhelming, Brewers K lots.” So what better way to elaborate on 160 characters than up it to close to 2,000 words? Pitcher profile! Here’s how he looked:
First Inning: Hefner starts the game with a 90-MPH fastball way outside for ball one to Norichika Aoki then a 91-MPH fastball is in there, then the 1-1 is laced foul near the Mets dugout, 1-2. Another 91-MPH heater gets slashed into the Mets dugout, and the Milwaukee crowd has a good cheer with Aoki laughing as the Mets players and coaches jokingly move towards the entryway. Funny moment. Hefner dials up a 78-MPH curveball that drops low, nice late sink on that pitch, then a 93-MPH fastball on the inside corner is fouled off Aoki’s foot, followed by a nasty 86-MPH change-up, almost looked more like a splitter or slider, that is cut on while sinking out of the zone to start the game with a K. Up now is Jean Segura who bluffs a bunt on a strike in there, then Hefner is low, and the 1-1 is a 93-MPH fastball low, 2-1. Another heater at 93 is fouled off, then again at 93 inside, full count. The only other time I saw Hefner was a stream start early in the year vs. San Diego and I don’t remember many 93-MPH pitches. The payoff pitch is an 86-MPH mini-slider – maybe that’s what the “change-up” was that got Aoki – that gets Segura looking as it bends into the zone for a called strike three. Two Ks to start the game strong for Hefner. Carlos Gomez fouls off the first-pitch fastball, then Hefner is inside, then Gomez fouls another off, 1-2. Hefner climbs the ladder at 92 that Gomez holds up on, then that same mini-slider is fouled back, then another slider at 87 dips low, and another full count. Hefner again goes with the slider, starting in the zone then dipping low and his best thus far, and Gomez can’t lay off and swings over it – giving Hefner a perfect inning – three-up three-down three Ks on 19 pitches.
Second Inning: Still a scoreless game, Hefner starts cleanup hitter Jonathan Lucroy with a fastball on the outside corner for a strike, then another fastball again at 91 in the same exact spot is hit opposite field but stays up in the air long enough for Marlon Byrd to grab it, one down. Hefner starts Juan Francisco with a 90-MPH fastball on the outside corner, 0-1, then is low then a fastball on the upper black gets slashed weakly to short for an easy out, two down. First pitch to Rickie Weeks is a heater at 92 on the outside for a strike, then Hefner tries to go inside and plunks Weeks for his first man on base. As the Mets broadcast lets us know, Weeks hit a homer off Hefner in relief last year – maybe some retribution. Charge the mound Rickie! But he takes it like a pro, and Hefner starts rookie Sean Halton with a fastball in there, then another at 89 is a tad inside, 1-1. This Brewers line-up is not very good, and as I was writing that sentence Hefner goes inside and Halton makes a terrible half-swing at it, 1-2. Then a slider on the outside corner at 85-MPH is hung, and Halton pokes it just barely in the range of Omar Quintanilla but it was rolled too slow and Halton beats out an errant throw for an infield single. Not a great pitch from Hefner, but it still was a lucky hit. So up now is Logan Schafer who takes a curveball outside, then a fastball at 92 in there, then a curveball at 75 dips in there, 1-2. That looked to dip low but gets the call, but the 1-2 is another curveball – this one biting hard and going in towards the hands – gets a swing-and-miss for Hefner’s 4th K.
Third Inning: The score still 0-0, and Hefner gets a strike in there against opposing pitcher Tom Gorzelanny then big Gorzy fouls one off, 0-2. The 0-2 is a slider that stayed in the zone a bit too long and hung, but Gorzelanny can only hit it weakly to short, one down. If there wasn’t a pitcher up that could’ve been a hit. So Aoki is up and watches an 84-MPH change-up go low, then a fastball up in the zone gets slashed down the line, but solid fielding from Josh Satin keeps it from going down the line for a possible double and gets Aoki. Two outs, and Hefner starts Segura with a fastball nipping the outside corner, 0-1, then Segura bunts one foul, 0-2. Hefner goes high and tight with the heater, 1-2, then a curveball, again with that great late break at 77 MPH gets a late swing from Segura way over top it and Hefner is up to 5 Ks.
Fourth Inning: After picking up a run aided by a terrible call, Hefner is now up 1-0 and starts Gomez with a 91-MPH fastball perfectly placed on the inside corner for a strike, then misses low, then gets Gomez to foul it off his foot, 1-2. Hefner goes high with the heater, 2-2, then a curveball at 77 gets Gomez to foul it off, still 2-2. That one hung a tad, and Hefner goes with it again and over-adjusts, bouncing it way outside, full count. Then a fastball at 92 is too high, Gomez is able to lay off for a leadoff walk. So up is Lucroy with Gomez certainly on the move at some point, and Hefner starts with a perfect first-pitch slider moving straight down on that outside edge for strike one, then another good pitch, a fastball on the inside corner is called low but looked close, 1-1. Solid pitching out of the stretch with a nuisance on first. A fastball high is fouled back, then another fastball is hit hard opposite field and caught by Byrd in almost the same spot Lucroy hit it in the second, one down. Up now is Francisco, and incoming from the retractable roof is a line of shadows between the mound and home that should give Hefner a good advantage for a few innings. Hefner gets a curveball over for strike one, another good breaking pitch used early in the count, then Francisco is late on a fastball and hits it foul, 0-2. Francisco is again hacking foul, then a curveball is in the dirt and Gomez picked the perfect pitch to run on and steals second without a throw. 1-2 and another is fouled, then that slider, perfectly starting in the zone on the inside that dips low and on the hands gets a swing-and-miss, 6 Ks. Hefner starts Weeks with a fastball for a strike, then a slider that dips low and outside gets Weeks unable to hold his swing, 0-2. The Mets announcers then say Hefner a little over a month ago tweaked his mechanics and it gave him a tick more velocity, explaining his increase from when I saw him early in the year. They say it had to do with hip rotation (“it’s all in the hips, yeah!”). And on cue, Hefner misses low at 93, 1-2, then the slider stays far outside, 2-2. Then a slider at 85 hangs right down the middle and Weeks slaps it hard but it bends barely foul down the first base line to keep the count 2-2. Then that heater, an explosive 93-MPH with some movement on it gets Weeks to strike out for Hefner’s 7th strikeout.
Fifth Inning: Hefner starts Halton with a fastball low at 88, then again low at 89. Lower velocity now, need more in the hips! Ease the tension, baby! Hefner gets a good slider in the zone, 2-1, then a hanger gets rocketed hard to David Wright, but he makes the catch, one down. Saved a hit there. Hefner misses low and inside to Schafer, then again low with the change-up, 2-0. As I said about Zack Wheeler in his pitcher profile, Hefner’s change-up in the mid-80s isn’t gonna get it down with a fastball in the low-90s. Luckily that’s his 4th pitch behind the slider and curve, but Hefner goes with a 92-MPH fastball high to get Schafer to ground out weakly, two down. Back up is Gozelanny who takes a fastball for a strike, then takes one low, 1-1, then Gorzo fouls one back, 1-2. Gorzelanny fouls another off, then again a curveball is fouled off, still 1-2. Gorzelanny is not a good hitter, Hefner needs to hurry up and sit him down. And he does so with a fastball at 92 that gets a weak popup, Hefner is through 5 scoreless on 81 pitches.
Sixth Inning: While the Brewers play like Little Leaguers on offense, Hefner now is up 2-0 on two unearned runs and starts Aoki with a curveball for a strike, then a change-up is low, then Aoki grounds one weakly to Satin on the line at first, a much easier play than in the third for the first out. On the first pitch to Segura, a slider that hung high gets grounded weakly to second, and it’s two down on four pitches. Up is All-Star Carlos Gomez who almost swings out of his helmet and misses for strike one, and the Mets announcers say that because he’s swinging so hard Hefner should try to hit him in the ribs. Ummmm, what? Gotta love the weekend announcers with Ron Darling not there… Hefner misses low on two in a row, then a fastball on the outside edge is fouled back, 2-2. I don’t think Hefner has thrown a single fastball down the middle, has been living on the edges. He misses inside and the payoff pitch is a rolling slider high-and-tight, but Gomez is out in front and Hefner notches his 8th K.
Seventh Inning: At only 91 pitches, Hefner is back out there and starts Lucroy with a 91-MPH fastball on the outer edge for a strike, then Lucroy misses on another 91-MPH fastball, this one low, 0-2. Lucroy fights off a fastball that was outside, then a fastball at 92-MPH, inside but a little too close to the heart of the plate, gets ripped for a homer. Not sure why Hefner didn’t go off-speed with an 0-2 count, but that pitch wasn’t awful, just good hitting. So now with the score 2-1, Hefner starts Francisco with a slider for a strike, then a change-up floats outside, 1-1. Hefner goes back with the slider and Francisco rips it hard, but the liner is caught by Daniel Murphy for the first out. Weeks takes strike one, then the 100th pitch is a rolling curveball, but Weeks doesn’t hit it hard and ground out weakly, two down. Sean Halton takes strike one via the heater, then Hefner misses low, then again low, 2-1 on all fastballs. He then bends a curveball and a dandy in there for a strike, 2-2, then Hefner’s final pitch is a 92-MPH fastball at the letters that’s flied out weakly to Byrd.
Final Line: W 7 IP 105 Pitches (71 Strikes) 2 Hits 1 Walk 1 ER 8 K Gamescore: 76 Gamescore+: 77.4
Final Analysis: Just a fantastic game from Hefner, who had both his breaking pitches working and a fastball with solid velocity throughout. Of his two hits given up, only the homer was hit well, the other was Halton’s dribbler that scored only a .1 against Hefner in my Gamescore+. Hefner gave up a lot of weak outs and only a few loud outs, keeping his Gamescore+ above his Gamescore.
Featuring a much-improved fastball than I saw earlier in the season that hit 93 multiple times, Hefner has got the potential makings of useful pitcher in even 10-team leagues. As I mentioned in the fourth inning, the Mets broadcasters indicate a change in mechanics in his hips have made Hefner more successful after a rough start to the season, giving him a tick more on his fastball. The slider looked fantastic most of the outing, but still had some inconsistency with a few hung. Don’t forget this is a Brewers line-up that had no Aramis Ramirez on top of no Ryan Braun or Corey Hart on the DL to help capitalize on mistakes. Plus a lot of rookies and free swingers to pad the Ks. The curveball also looked great most of the day, with only a few hangers and some rollers. The change-up is easily Hefner’s 4th pitch, and needs a little bit of work and more change of speed to be effective.
I got a question this morning in comments – Wheeler or Hefner in a redraft? I’ll go Hefner. More refined and more consistency on breaking pitches. That said, Hefner had some mistakes the Brewers couldn’t capitalize on and a few line drive outs that could’ve cost him. He’s probably a mediocre stream start at Pittsburgh before the All-Star Break, the Pirates are playing well and I think can capitalize on those mistakes, but Hefner had a great start against them at the end of last year. Past that, I don’t think he’s more than a streamer in 10-team leagues, but deeper leagues looking for pitching depth should go ahead and nab him.