The Mets hope their third pitching coach over a year is the key to decipher the potential of their staff. Jeremy Hefner could be the man to do it.
The Mets decided to go all the way in bringing in a new team of coaches. So with that theme in mind, Phil Regan was not invited back, and Jeremy Hefner was brought in as the team’s new pitching coach.
At the tender age of 33, Hefner has Mets players older than he is (Robinson Cano – 37, Jed Lowrie – 35, and Yoenis Cespedes – 34).
But as Minnesota Twins special assistant LaTroy Hawkins referencing Hefner’s audition as their pitching coach told the New York Post:
“[Hefner] brings extra credibility because he’s played in this decade. He still relates to the players very well, and his communication skills are off the charts. He gets all the analytical stuff, but understands there is a human element to it that needs to be addressed as well with the players.”
Jeremy Hefner sees the big picture
The prevailing thought about a pitching coach is as an instructor who teaches his staff how to pitch. Except for Steven Matz, however, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Rick Porcello, Marcus Stroman, and Michael Wacha have been around the major league block a few times.
They have the ability and experience by now to record outs – they know how to pitch. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be pitching at this level in their thirties.
More and more, the job of a major league pitching coach centers around one of Hefner’s strengths – the one Hawkins referred to as the “human element.”
It has to do with that elusive ability to command yourself and, in turn, the game you are pitching in. It has little to do with that 98mph fastball you can throw, but everything to do with the command and repetitive execution of the pitch.
Locked and Loaded – Enter Jeremy Hefner
And that’s where Jeremy Hefner comes in. Understanding how difficult the art of pitching is because he’s been there before, his role evolves into that of a psychologist whose job is to uncover the keys that make each staff member tick.
Finding the right key that fits the lock is the trick. Hefner relies on his wealth of knowledge in the area of analytics to facilitate the chore.
Hefner must demonstrate in neutral colors that when a particular pitcher throw pitch X on a 3-1 count, the ball is walloped.
While conversely, if he can show that when the same pitcher uses pitch Y on the same count, and an out is recorded, he has given his “student” something to think about.
The Mets have the right guy
During his introductory press conference, Hefner alluded to this intangible when he said, “It’s all about relationships, and it’s still about relationships, and it will always be about relationships and how you can relate to the players.”
We’ve heard it all before, and there isn’t a single coach in the major leagues who hasn’t uttered the same or near the same words.
The hard-edged “Master” no longer has a job on a big-league club.
He has given way to players who make millions of dollars, have regimented off-season strategies to stay in shape, and who hire their very own “guru” to study analytics.
Hefner’s job is to “fit in” in a way that develops a mutual trust with each of his pitchers. He’s the “Boss,” but he can’t come across that way.
If and when push comes to shove, Hefner will tell Pitcher X he’s out of the rotation until further notice – end of the story.
It’s a balancing act taking place on a high trapeze with no net. But if all the accolades coming from Minnesota are true, Jeremy Hefner is the man to accept the challenge in New York with the Mets.