There’s something pretty simple that everyone knows about pitchers: they get hurt. Mets fans learned that the hard way with Matt Harvey last year. Before Harvey, it was Johan Santana. Before Santana, it was Pedro Martinez. This list could go on forever. One pitcher Mets fans are hoping not to add to the list is Jonathon Niese.
Right before spring training games started up, Niese was complaining about feeling like he had a dead arm. Niese had an MRI, and everything seemed to be fine. However, when Niese returned to action in his first spring training game, the results were not pretty. Niese allowed four runs on six hits and two walks with one home run, given up over two innings pitched against the Cardinals.
There are a couple of reasons to look the other way and not worry about this performance. This is spring training, and maybe Niese’s arm just isn’t quite into the form that he hoped it would be. This is what spring training is for; it’s for pitchers to get ready for the season. It’s also worth considering that spring training performance isn’t predictive of what is going to happen in the regular season. This was Niese’s first performance of the spring, and maybe he was just a little bit rusty. Everyone has those days where things just aren’t working.
On the other hand, it is a little bit concerning that Niese got torched the way he did, especially after the reports we had heard about his supposed dead arm. It’s not uncommon for pitchers to come down with injuries during spring training. That’s why Niese’s early complaints about his arm are very concerning.
Niese wasn’t the epitome of health last season, either. He was limited to 143 innings of work as he hit the DL around June of last year due to a partial tear in his rotator cuff.
It’s a little strange that all of a sudden Niese has been having these arm issues because he hasn’t been throwing pitches that would be considered strenuous. He doesn’t throw hard at all, and he doesn’t throw any sliders.
Year FB% CT% CB% CH%
2013 48.6% 25.2% 17.5% 8.8%
Niese’s pitch selection is nicely balanced. He is not throwing too much of any one pitch. He throws his cutter and fastball the most because those are his two best pitches, and any pitcher with two above-average pitches will throw those types of pitches the most. However, there is nothing from this data that would indicate that Niese is heading for the gurney.
It would be a mistake not to worry about Niese, because pitchers get hurt. It’s just what happens. On the other hand, Niese could just be working out the kinks that come with time off. The best course of action is to be wary of what could come ahead. It’s time to hope for the best, and not worry about the worst.