Pitching coach Jeremy Hefner is the Mets’ unsung hero of hot starts

The Seaver statue stands outside the stadium as a reminder of who and what the Mets were and have tried to be ever since.

Generation K, anyone? Bill Pulsipher, Paul Wilson and Jason Isringhausen was a dream that never came true. Matt Harvey, Jacob de Grom, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz. Oh well.

But now…10 games into the season…the Mets, who rained out of Monday night’s game against the Giants, are making an eye-opening pitch with the best start (1.07 ERA, .75 WHIP) of any rotation in the past 109 years for the story . In other words, well before Casey Stengel’s 1962 Roger Craig-Al Jackson-Jay Hook-Bob Miller rotation… and well after the 1986 Dwight Gooden-Ron Darling-Sid Fernandez-Bob Ojeda rotation.

And the unsung hero for Buck Showalter — the sung hero of the 2022 Mets — is pitching coach Jeremy Hefner.

“Imagine Jacob deGrom being part of the rotation,” Mets fans say these days.

When his jugs gush over him, the words relatable and knowledgeable are heard over and over again.

“I think the greatest gift for a pitching coach,” Chris Bassitt told The Post, “basically isn’t to have everyone try to be the same, but really just to have the person understand what it takes for them to be.” person is the best of them. And he really took the time, for all of us I would say, just to know what each person needs to be good. And we are all different. It’s not an easy job, but he’s doing a damn good job.”

Showalter is adept at recognizing and understanding what makes each player tick. Hefner is adept at spotting and understanding what makes every pitcher tick.

New York Mets pitcher Seth Lugo talks to pitching coach Jeremy Hefner before a spring tr
Mets pitchers say Jeremy Hefner’s age and relationship skills help him build strong relationships.

“I think his knowledge of his boys is number 1,” David Peterson told The Post. “He knows every guy, his stuff, how they like to use it, their approach. He’s very personable with every guy and every type of pitcher we have. And then just his knowledge of the game, his knowledge of technology, and his feeling as a former major league pitcher. Guys who are super analytical he can get what they need, guys who aren’t that analytical he can get them what the analysts are saying.”

“He’s a sounding board for every guy in this room. It is a pleasure to work with him every day.”

The Mets’ overall ERA is 2.35. Assistants Chasen Shreve and Trevor May were drawn to the Mets in large part because of Hefner, who Showalter inherited.

“I know a lot of boys love him. He is very approachable, for one he is very knowledgeable. I think he and I agree on a lot of things,” Shreve said. “Last year with the Pirates I wanted to throw my fastball down and they didn’t think it was a good idea. And I brought it here and he said, ‘I think that’s a great idea.’ We just think the same way. Especially with the experience of our employees, he knows when to talk, when not to talk, everything.”

May said: “He’s really really good at taking feedback and it’s a two-way conversation with him and it’s not always like that. I think that goes a long way when boys find out who they are and you have a lot of space for that here. When you get young people who get that relationship right away, you can reach a comfort level. He’s one of the best pitching minds in baseball in my opinion.”

“He has a really good understanding of the advanced analytics side of things. Understand not only the intangibles, but also what pitchers do well and your ability to handle pressure and kind of stay cool and things like that, but also how to be the best version of yourself both from an eye standpoint and from a statistical standpoint looks like. So if you have a really good pitch or something that has a lot of potential but you’re not really sure, he’s really good at identifying those things and making you believe in them too. A lot of times you don’t know if someone’s good or not, and I think the guys here are more willing to do that. He’s really good at presenting the information that this will work if you just do it…get you everything you need and then figure out what a guy actually wants to know and what he doesn’t need to know, and in the being able to tailor things to him very quickly his superpower is assured.”

Hefner turned 36 last month.

“I think one of the most underestimated values ​​for him is just his age,” Bassitt said. “We’re all mostly the same age – for being a big league pitching coach, he’s young, but he’s also very, very talented. He has a young family, we all have young families, so everything we’re going through he can kind of know, he’s going through it.

Mets pitching coach Jeremy Hefner during practice at Clover Park
Jeremy Hefner at the Mets practice.
Tom DiPace

“The biggest thing for me is just belonging.

“I would say a very big disadvantage of older pitching coaches is the fact that you have people trying to build analysis in and they’ve been different for so long, but Hef is so good at the new world of baseball and just really, being really good at it.”

Hefner was 8-15 with a 4.59 ERA in 2012-13 in 50 games with the Mets before a second surgery by Tommy John led to his retirement.

“He’s got a lot of pitching knowledge, he’s been in the big leagues, he’s played at that level,” Seth Lugo said, “and he kind of knows what we’re going through day to day and throughout the season. But what sets him apart is his openness to talk about different ideas or different things that we need. It’s an easy guy to talk to. That is really important at this level.”

This is Hefner’s third year as the Mets’ pitching coach.

“What he’s brought to the table over the last few years isn’t like a strict analytical approach or strict old-school, it’s kind of a mix of the two,” Lugo said.

Unlisted, Hefner was rehabilitating a first Tommy John surgery when Lugo starred with him in 2014.

“He doesn’t necessarily feel like a coach, he feels like a teammate just talking to him… he’s obviously respected by us as a coach,” Lugo said.

Lugo was asked what he remembers about his pitching coach as a teammate.

“So he was in rehab at St. Lucie and I pitched after him a lot … but I remember he’s pretty good at cards,” Lugo said.

The Mets and Giants play a doubleheader Tuesday, and long-suffering Mets fans know firsthand that it’s far too early to look at Hefner and see former pitching coaches Rube Walker (1969) and Mel Stottlemyre (1986).

“I hope the last 10 games of the year are the historical thing that we’re talking about,” Bassitt said, “not the first 10. It’s great to have a great start, but the ending is always a lot more important than it is.” the beginning.”

The Seaver statue will be watching. Pitching coach Jeremy Hefner is the Mets’ unsung hero of hot starts


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