If you ask people about Jonathon Niese and his 2013 season, the most likely answer you’ll get is that he pitched well after he returned from his shoulder injury but that his year was disappointing overall. This doesn’t give Niese enough credit for the year he turned in, which pretty much fits his career as a whole. There are people out there who think Niese is nothing more than a back-of-the-rotation starter, which leaves me wondering – Just who are these guys watching pitch?
Niese did finish the season strong in 2013. He also had a pretty solid start and was pitching well before he got hurt. To put it simply, Niese had two bad starts in 2013 and was excellent outside of those back-to-back outings in the beginning of May.
In April, Niese pitched in six games and had a 3.31 ERA. He struggled in the cold in Minnesota but overall had a fine opening month of the year. Then from May 16th through June 20th, Niese had a 2.50 ERA over six starts, despite allowing a .350 BABIP. Then came the shoulder injury, diagnosed as a partially torn rotator cuff, which caused him to miss over 50 days.
When he returned from the DL, Niese pitched in 10 games and had a 3.00 ERA in that span. For the season, Niese had a 3.01 ERA in 22 of his 24 starts. However, in his first two starts of May, he allowed 15 ER in 8.1 IP, which brought his season ledger up to a 3.71 ERA.
So, what will he do in 2014? Here’s what we think:
Sean Flattery and Dan Kolton are the two non-believers when it comes to Niese. Everyone else has him putting up an ERA of 3.73 or lower. Four of us think he will establish a career-best in ERA and four think he will establish a personal-best in IP, with Joe Vasile missing by one-third of an inning. It seems we’re optimistic.
Here’s what the group as a whole projects for Niese in 2014:
We project better numbers for Niese than we do for Colon. We expect these two to combine for 344.1 IP and a 3.55 ERA. Last year we predicted 371 innings and a 3.52 ERA from Niese and Matt Harvey. In reality, those two combined for 321.1 IP and a 2.91 ERA. Ideally, the Mets would get more innings from their top two starters than the 344.1 that we are predicting. But when your top two feature a guy on the wrong side of 40 and a guy who has suffered several injuries in his career, it’s probably not realistic to expect more than this.
Here’s our forecast along with what the other projection systems available on FanGraphs predict for Niese this year:
Ours is the most optimistic but all four are quite similar. Perhaps most surprising is the agreement on IP, with all of the forecasts within 25.1 innings of one another. The Oliver projection calls for a 2.0 fWAR, which is a bit better than what he did last year but slightly worse than both 2011 and 2012.
Check back Thursday for our next entry in the projection series.