HomeTeamsMetsMets Pitching Coach Jeremy Hefner Needs To Help The Catchers

Mets Pitching Coach Jeremy Hefner Needs To Help The Catchers

Omar Narvaez says he has no solution to the problem. The problem is 30 baserunners have stolen 30 bases when Narvaez is catching this season. Tomas Nido, all but relegated to the scrapheap is back with the Mets because of the injury to Francisco Alvarez. Nido has caught three runners stealing (out of 15) which is below the MLB average but better than Narvaez’s zero. The result is that Nido is now getting the bulk of the playing time as his bat is no worse than Narvaez (Nido’s bat has been better since his return) and at least Nido has a fighting chance to cut down an attempted base stealer.

What’s Mets pitching coach Jeremy Hefner doing to help the beleaguered Met catchers?  Maybe the better question would be, what can Hefner do to help?  A former Mets pitcher himself, Hefner had a career WHIP of 1.32 in his two MLB seasons with the Mets. He’s quite familiar with traffic on the bases. Part of the Mets stratospheric rate of opponent steals is due to Mets pitchers walking far too many batters. The pitching staff has been among the leaders in allowing the fewest hits and home runs, but as the saying goes ‘oh those bases on balls’. 

Clearly, it’s not as simple as Hefner instructing his pitchers to stop giving up free passes.  The Met starting pitchers outside of Luis Severino (and Kodai Senga when he returns) are not a staff of flame-throwers. Sean Manaea, Jose Quintana, Adrian Houser (who has been moved to the bullpen), and Jose Butto are all pitchers that need to be very precise with their location since they don’t get it up to 97+ on the radar gun.  This quest for precision results in them sometimes being too ‘fine’, trying to paint corners or get a batter to more frequently swing at pitches outside the strike zone. When they try to be too fine with their pitches, bases on balls happen, and as a result, they must work from the stretch more than they and the team would prefer.

The 2022 rule changes limiting pickoff throws to first base has pitchers thinking about not wasting their two ‘free’ attempts. On the third pickoff attempt while a batter is at the plate, the pitcher must either pick off the runner or if not, the runner is awarded second base automatically.

Hefner no doubt has encouraged the pitchers to try to speed up their deliveries whenever possible. That’s not easy to do, particularly during the season. Catchers can snap throw down to first base after a pitch with no limitations and we’ve seen more of that this season than in quite a while. But that’s more of warning than it is a legitimate chance to pick off a baserunner at first from the catcher. The Mets have not yet accomplished that feat this season. Francisco Alvarez when he was playing was unable to catch any of the 10 baserunners attempting to steal on his watch. Through Sunday the three Mets catchers have allowed a total of 52 steals in 55 attempts – 94.5%.  If you think that’s bad, you’re right since it’s historically bad.  

Since 1956, the 2001 Boston Red Sox allowed the most stolen bases ever by a team. They allowed 81% of baserunners to steal successfully. Which would be a vast improvement if the Mets catchers could reach that level!

The recipe for having more success in nabbing would-be base stealers is some combination of fewer base runners overall, more pick off throws to keep runners honest, pitchers being even a little quicker in their delivery to home plate, and catchers making strong and accurate throws which has been less of the overall problem although Narvaez who once had a pretty good arm, no longer does.

When a team like the Mets is attempting to win 85-90 games instead of 78-83, the little things like catching more base stealers become big things. It’s a big thing and the Jeremy Hefner and the Mets pitchers and catchers all need to be better. 

Mark Kolier
Mark Kolierhttps://mlbreport.com/
Mark Kolier along with his son Gordon co-hosts a baseball podcast called ‘Almost Cooperstown’. He also has written baseball-related articles that can be accessed on Medium.com, Substack.com and now MLBReport.com.


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