This offseason everyone criticized Omar Minaya for not picking up at least one starting pitcher. I advocated for the club to sign John Lackey, and after he inked a deal with the Red Sox, I suggested the club pick up Jon Garland. Some people thought that the Mets needed to add two starting pitchers but no one, other than Minaya, thought the Mets should stand pat with their starting rotation.

Through the first 28 games, Minaya appears to have made the right call. Now, it is very early and things could easily look different by the end of the month, but if you are going to criticize an individual when you think he is wrong, you better be ready to congratulate him if he is right. According to Baseball-Reference.com Mets starting pitchers are allowing 3.79 R/G, the fourth-best mark in the National League. They are tied for sixth in the league with a 46% Quality Start percentage. The team’s starters have posted nine wins (exactly league average) despite having below-average run support. The NL average is 4.7 rpg and the Mets’ starters have received 3.9 rpg.

If the Mets did add a pitcher via free agency this year, he likely would have replaced Jon Niese in the rotation. While many fans wanted Oliver Perez out, his contract made it unlikely that he would not start the season as one of the Mets’ five starters. So, let’s take a look at Niese and some of the free agent pitchers available to the Mets this offseason and see how they stack up a month into the year.

Niese – 1-1, 3.60 ERA, 29 Ks, 12 BB in 35 IP, 4.06 xFIP
Davis – 1-3, 8.13 ERA, 28 Ks, 12 BB in 27.2 IP, 4.00 xFIP
Garland – 3-2, 2.06 ERA, 23 Ks, 20 BB in 35 IP, 4.68 xFIP
Harden – 2-1, 3.52 ERA, 31 Ks, 23 BB in 30.2 IP, 5.70 xFIP
Lackey – 3-1, 3.89 ERA, 21 Ks, 14 BB in 37 IP, 4.78 xFIP
Marquis – 0-3, 20.52 ERA, 3 Ks, 6 BB in 8.1 IP, 6.58 xFIP
Myers – 1-2, 3.60 ERA, 29 Ks, 11 BB in 40 IP, 3.64 xFIP
Padilla – 1-1, 7.06 ERA, 23 Ks, 6 BB in 21.1 IP, 3.90 xFIP
Penny – 3-2, 1.99 ERA, 24 Ks, 8 BB in 40.2 IP, 3.86 xFIP
Pineiro – 2-4, 5.30 ERA, 21 Ks, 8 BB in 35.2 IP, 3.88 xFIP
Sheets – 1-3, 7.12 ERA, 16 Ks, 16 BB in 30.1 IP, 5.63 xFIP
Wolf – 2-2, 3.86 ERA, 27 Ks, 16 BB in 37.1 IP, 4.48 xFIP

There is not one pitcher on that list head and shoulders above Niese, and when you add in that Niese is making considerably less than any other pitcher mentioned above, it looks in early May like a win for Minaya.

I take particular delight in the head-to-head comparison with Pineiro. Many people wanted the Mets to sign Pineiro and considered him the top pitcher available once Lackey went off the board. Pineiro ended up signing a two-year, $16 million deal with the Angels. Niese is making minimum wage ($402,000) with the Mets this year.

After Pineiro had an impressive outing against the Yankees early this season, writers were up in arms over the Mets’ failure to bring him aboard. As an example, Justin Terranova of the New York Post wrote on April 15th, “The Mets would have a legitimate No. 2 starter — and Pineiro looked pretty good in The Bronx yesterday, didn’t he? Why is he with the Angels and not the Mets?” Another example is a post on Bleacher Report about Pineiro on April 16th which concluded, “Bottom line, whoever was at fault for not getting a deal done, it was a mistake on the Mets’ end.”

In the offseason, I wrote about Pineiro, “While the research done by R.J. Anderson indicates that Pineiro is likely to maintain his increase in ground balls, there is virtually no chance that he will keep a 6.5 percent HR/FB rate over an entire season. When he struggled the final two months of the season, Pineiro had a 12.5 percent HR/FB mark in August and an 11.6 percent mark in September, neither one an outrageous number. And Pineiro still had outstanding control in those two months, with a 1.39 BB/9 ratio. He is unlikely to allow such few walks next year and combined with the greater HR rate, it has the potential for disaster.”

Pineiro currently has a 15.6 HR/FB rate, which is on the high side, but no more so than his 6.5 rate last year was on the low side. His BB rate of 2.02 per nine innings is outstanding, yet up from his 1.14 mark in 2009.

We are roughly 1/6 of the way through the season so it is too soon to declare winners or losers. I do not think anyone expects Brett Myers to have the lowest xFIP of the 12 pitches listed by the end of the year. But since the Minaya bashers were out in full force not even two weeks into the season, it seems only fair to throw both Minaya and Niese a little support today.

4 comments on “Niese rewards Minaya's faith

  • RickHolman

    You’re comparing an unproven pitcher that can’t go more than 6 innings and other pitchers that burn out their bullpen and rate that pitcher over Garland and Pinero. Sorry man, this is the reason I stopped routing for the Mets. You know, NY is a huge market and teams like the Nats, Marlins, Devil Rays, and Giants and many other teams build a pitching of young guns that make those teams what they are today. Your GM should have taken a lesson from that and given NY a much better team than he gave NY. He deserves to be fired.

  • RickHolman

    One more thought. Don’t think for a minute that Minaya made those comments believing that his pitchers were better than the free agents that were out there. The last thing he wants is to replace those pitchers and be scrutinized for replacing any of them. He doesn’t want to admit he made mistakes like Oliver Perez. All he cares about is keeping his job and he go to any lengths to do that, including conning the fans into thinking he’s a good GM.

  • John

    Brian: Rick makes a valid point about the Oliver Perez signing but I don’t think there’s a Met fan alive who doesn’t know what a mistake that signing was. As fans we’ve just come to accept it and take out beating about Ollie. No use beating a dead horse. While I don’t expect Minaya to hold a press conference to announce that was a bad deal, the tema could have made a statement by pulling him from the rotation before the 2010 season, made him the long reliever and signed Piniero, Lackey or Wolf.

  • Brian Joura

    I can think of few worse ideas than Oliver Perez, reliever. The obvious snark comeback to that would be Oliver Perez, starter. But Perez is what he is – a league average starter by ERA. If he could consistently throw strikes, he would be better, but no one expects him to do that at this point. But again, his tendency to walk people would be magnified in the bullpen, which is another reason along with his contract why he was not going to be moved out of the rotation.

    The Mets were only going to sign one big free agent and they made the decision to sign Bay rather than Lackey. Minaya said the other free agent pitchers did not overwhelm him. Maybe with an unlimited budget, he would have signed somebody else. But the decision to go with the homegrown (and cheap) Niese looks great here in the early going.

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