PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Steven Matz, a self-described analytics skeptic in years past, has been converted.
Credit that to new pitching coach Jeremy Hefner and the way he is able to translate the oft-intimidating data and technology into useful, applicable bits of information. That was a primary reason the Mets hired Hefner, who pitched for them in 2012-13, and the extremely early returns — before pitchers and catchers report to spring training Monday — have been positive.
Matz worked with Hefner periodically over the offseason, including a kinesiology assessment and high-tech bullpen session at the University of Michigan, and again in recent days at the team’s Clover Park complex. He said Hefner already has started helping him make tweaks.
“Some of that [analytics] stuff, as new as it is, it’s hard to translate to ‘OK, how do I do that on the mound?’ ” Matz said. “That’s something he’s really good at.
“I was hesitant toward it, just because you see all these numbers and you don’t want to change anything because you know what got you here [to the majors]. All of a sudden this new stuff is coming along and you’re like, wait a minute, I don’t want to start changing everything now.
“That’s the big thing. Those things, the numbers, they can show little adjustments really do help a lot.”
Hefner already has suggested that Matz tweak his hand position when he delivers certain pitches. On Saturday, they chatted about the paths his pitches take, which paths look similar, which pitches look similar coming out of his hand and therefore which pitches might play well off each other.
“He’s really good at communicating some of the analytics stuff to us,” Matz said, “and translating it in a way where we can actually take action with it.”
The Mets promoted Chad Kreuter, a big-league catcher from 1988-2003, to Triple-A Syracuse manager. He managed advanced Class A St. Lucie the previous three seasons and had been set to return this year. That fills the hole created by Brian Schneider’s promotion to major-league quality control coach while creating another hole for St. Lucie … Righthanded reliever Drew Smith, who had Tommy John surgery in March, started throwing bullpen sessions in late January, he said … Brandon Nimmo drives a 2010 Nissan Altima, a gift from his parents when he graduated from high school and they didn’t need to pay for college (because he had a scholarship to Arkansas). It runs, so he has never felt a need to replace it. In a lot full of sports cars and huge pickup trucks, that sticks out.