Saturday, July 20, 2013

Against the Phillies, Jeremy Hefner Is the Anti-PSSST

Jeremy Hefner does not pitch well against the Philadelphia Phillies.  Of his 46 appearances (32 starts) in the big leagues, six of them (five starts) have come with Phillies hitters salivating in the batter's box.  Hefner has managed to pitch only 18⅓ innings versus Philadelphia in those six appearances, allowing 29 runs (28 earned) and 48 base runners (43 hits, 5 walks).  That's a 13.75 ERA, 2.62 WHIP and .448 batting average (43-for-96) against him, for all you kids scoring at home.

For his career, Hefner has a 4.46 ERA and 1.29 WHIP, with opposing hitters batting .268 against him.  That means when he faces teams that don't have brotherly love for him, Hefner has a 3.54 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and opposing hitters are batting .244 (173-for-709) against him.  Simply stated, against the Phillies, Hefner pitches like a Quadruple-A pitcher.  Against everyone else, he pitches like a top of the rotation starter.  In essence, Hefner is the Anti-PSSST.  And what exactly is PSSST?  Oh, ye of little memory, let me take you back to a piece that was originally written on April 11, 2010.

Back in the early '90s, the Pittsburgh Pirates dominated the National League East.  The Bucs won three straight division titles from 1990 to 1992, effectively ending any chance of the Mets continuing their '80s glory into the new decade.  One of the reasons the Mets constantly walked the plank against the Pirates was their trio of lefty starters, namely John Smiley, Zane Smith and Randy Tomlin.  Smiley, Smith and Tomlin formed the "SST" in PSSST, or the Pitching School of Smiley, Smith and Tomlin.

John Smiley was a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1986-1991.  Zane Smith was a Pirate from 1990-1994, then returned to Pittsburgh for his final season in 1996.  Randy Tomlin played his entire five-year career in the Steel City from 1990-1994.  Collectively, the three pitchers were the definition of mediocre, as they combined to win 256 games and lose 256 games over their careers.  But when they put on their Pirates uniforms to face the Mets, they became world beaters (or at the very least, Met killers).

Let's look at what the charter members of PSSST did over their entire careers and let's compare that to what they did against the Mets while they were members of the Pirates, considering their won-loss records, ERA, WHIP and batting average against them.

  • John Smiley (entire career): 126-110, 3.80 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, .255 BAA
  • John Smiley (w/PIT vs. Mets): 10-3, 2.41 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, .178 BAA

  • Zane Smith (entire career): 100-115, 3.74 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, .271 BAA
  • Zane Smith (w/PIT vs. Mets): 7-3, 1.87 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, .245 BAA

  • Randy Tomlin (entire career): 30-31, 3.43 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, .268 BAA
  • Randy Tomlin (w/PIT vs. Mets): 9-0, 2.05 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, .216 BAA

  • Combined (entire career): 256-256, 3.73 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, .264 BAA
  • Combined (w/PIT vs. Mets): 26-6, 2.12 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, .214 BAA

                                   PSSST!  Don't tell anyone, but these guys were pretty good against the Mets. 

From 1986, when John Smiley made his first start for the Pirates against the Mets, to 1996, when Zane Smith made his final start as a Buc versus New York, the Mets went through a decade of malaise against the fearsome threesome of Smiley, Smith and Tomlin.  They couldn't touch the three lefties whenever they faced them, even though other teams seemed to have no problem against them.

In that respect, Jeremy Hefner is the Anti-PSSST.  Whereas the charter members of PSSST had their best success against the Mets and were just okay when they faced other teams, Jeremy Hefner has struggled mightily against the Phillies, but has been pretty decent against the rest of the league.

Perhaps a private session with the members of PSSST and a complimentary 1986-1996 highlight film of the Pirates' trio in games versus the Mets can do the trick for Hefner if he wants to learn how to exorcise the demons wearing Phillies uniforms.  If that doesn't do the trick, then Mets fans will continue to get PSSST off whenever Hefner takes the hill against the Phillies.

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