The curious case of Jon Niese

Jonathon NieseLast night, Jon Niese cruised through seven innings in a cold, windy and rainy game in Philadelphia. Niese picked up his second victory and dropped his ERA to 2.20. In his career against the Phillies, Niese is 7-6 in 16 starts with a 3.00 ERA. For a man who has been with the Mets for a while, and one who pitched opening day last night, Niese has been lost in the fray.

All the talk has been about Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and the incoming crop of young pitching. That doesn’t include the signing of Bartolo Colon and the emergence of Dillon Gee as a top pitcher in the National League.

So for Niese, 2014 was all about re-establishing himself as a mainstay in the Mets rotation. When spring time rolled around, the problems arrived. A number of injuries kept Niese from pitching for most of the spring. The injuries required Niese to miss his first start of the season and questions arose about his ability to bounce back and into form.

He answered those questions without a problem and has looked good in the process. Niese has slid into a nice slot into the rotation between Gee and Colon and settled in there.

It’s not that Niese isn’t good enough to be the ace of a rotation, he is. But it’s more that the pressure required to be the ace of this rotation is more suited for a guy like Matt Harvey. Niese is a quiet guy. He likes to go out there, pitch well and move on to the next start. Things like #HarveyDay or #DiaDeMejia are not part of the Niese makeup. He is more comfortable in his current role.

There has been a long road to this point. His first few seasons with the Mets were all about growth and development. He added and worked on his change-up and his cutter, two pitches that are key to his success. Now in the past two seasons, Niese has been struggling with staying healthy, pitching 200 innings and finding his spot within this rotation.

With the comfort of having a set spot in the rotation, the pressure of having to be “the guy” can be off Niese and he can just go and pitch. To this point, that’s what he has done. Hopefully this can be another building block for Niese. If he can finally get over the hump and pitch 200 innings this season, the Mets have a really good #3/#4 starter.

Mets fans would sign up for their #3/#4 starter to pitch 200 innings, win 13-16 games and have a sub 4.00 ERA. Add that to Harvey, Wheeler, Gee, Mejia, Colon, Rafael Montero, Noah Syndergaard and the Mets have themselves one of the best, if not the best rotation in the National League.

Since he’s been brought up, Jon Niese has been an interesting pitcher. From bouncing around the rotation to injuries risks to adding secondary pitches to his repertoire, Niese hasn’t had the chance to settle in to a spot. Now is that time. Going forward, Niese has to build on his good start to the year and settle in to his spot into the rotation. Once that happen, the future of the Mets pitching will get even better.

14 comments for “The curious case of Jon Niese

  1. pal88
    April 30, 2014 at 7:20 pm

    Niese is our Koosman…Harvey (will be) our Seaver…quite unassumng but gets the jb done

    Editor’s Note – Please do not capitalize words in your post, as that is a violation of our Comment Policy.

  2. Name
    April 30, 2014 at 8:43 pm

    I don’t get it. You’re making it sound like Niese is some fringe guy who hasn’t established his spot in the rotation. Hasn’t had a chance to settle into a rotation spot? This is his 5th full season in the majors. He was the Opening Day starter last season and he would have been this year if he had been healthy! He had a 3.20 ERA after coming off the DL last year and has averaged a mid 3s ERA for the past 2 seasons. Even when he was a 4+ ERA guy from 09-11, his FIP was in the mid 3s.

    The main reason Niese isn’t an ace has nothing to do with his “presence”. For one, he seems to get injured a lot. They usually aren’t big ones but enough to knock a couple of starts off a season. Second, most big-time aces are usually high strikeout guys. Niese does not fit that mold as his career K/9 is 7.3.

    The only thing curious about Niese is his inability to stay healthy. He’s more than solid when healthy. And if anyone doesn’t realize what a bargain Niese’s contract is, Homer Bailey, who is 2 years older than Niese and has slightly worse stats and peripherals, was given a 6/105 contract this offseason.

  3. Eraff
    April 30, 2014 at 10:01 pm

    Harvey has 12 career wins and He’s “Seaver”….and Niese is Koosman? Ok…Curb Your Enthusiasm!!!

    I’ll concede that Harvey is one of Baseball’s best Pitchers when healthy….. still…. as for “Niese is Koosman”….

    72 pitchers Ever won more games than Jerry Koosman. He was a Rookie of the Year…. he won 226 games…2-20 game win seasons. He was one of the Top Ten pitchers in his league/in Baseball throughout most of his career.

    Is Syndergaard already David Cone…or can he get a few starts under his belt first?

    • Chris F
      April 30, 2014 at 10:18 pm

      Thanks for that dose of reality Eraff.

    • Metsense
      April 30, 2014 at 11:28 pm

      I like Jon Niese and he is a good pitcher but his biggest similarity to Koosman is that he is left handed.

  4. Metsense
    April 30, 2014 at 11:23 pm

    In 2013, of the 76 NL starters that threw at least 70 innings , Niese had a 3.58 FIP ranking him 32nd, an ERA of 3.71 ranking him at 44th , and he also has a career FIP of 3.74 and an ERA of 3.99.
    Niese is a solid number 3 starter that seems to be improving as he is approaching his prime years. He also has a bargain of a contract. The combination of these two factors should increase his trade value. Harvey, Wheeler, Syndergaard and Mejia seem to have a higher upside than Niese. Niese, Gee , Montero and deGrom could be very good number #5 men in the rotation and all could bring in some much needed offensive help via trade.You can’t start eight pitchers in a 5 man rotation so the trade winds are beginning to gain force and should be a full gale by this winter, if not sooner.

    • Eraff
      May 1, 2014 at 12:29 am

      Year by year, almost any pitching staff will lose innings to injury. The Mets already have 2 “Tommy Johns” in their very youthful mix…Harvey and Mejia. Syndergaard has yet to pitch more than 112 innings. Niese has a history of struggling with a “full workload”.

      Look around the Major Leagues….. Arm injuries seem to have exploded in prevalence. The recovery from such injuries is not as automatic as we’d like to wish. We don;t really know the ability of Mejia to work full rotation innings— and we only wish for a recovery to enormous ability for Matt Harvey. Back to Niese—Yes, he is a bargain, but his past year is a story of questions about his long term durability… even as he has advanced as a Pitcher. We’re hopeful that he’s in his prime, but he’s in his 5th year as a big league starter. He’s far more likely to “manage” the dings and physical drags he’s picked up along the way rather than put them behind him. This is reality!

      “Pitching Depth” is a Myth! It hangs by Sinew—and some of that sinew hangs by a surgeon’s thread.

  5. Eraff
    May 1, 2014 at 12:59 am

    FYI.. from mlb trade runors….

    6:28pm: Athletics righty A.J. Griffin will undergo Tommy John surgery next week, a source tells Joe Stiglich of An elbow issue first cropped up for the 26-year-old pitcher in March, and word came from A’s manager Bob Melvin this week that Griffin would visit Houston-area specialist Dr. Thomas Mehlhoff on Tuesday for a second opinion.

    Griffin provided 200 innings of 3.83 ball as a member of the A’s rotation last year. The A’s had already lost Jarrod Parker to Tommy John in March. The A’s seemed to have a surplus of starting pitching when they reached an agreement with Scott Kazmir in December, but attrition has taken its toll.

  6. Eraff
    May 1, 2014 at 1:04 am

    btw—thats 400 inning of lost young pitching for the A’s.

    You need great “pitching dept” and/or Luck to get a winning team through a season.

  7. Eraff
    May 1, 2014 at 1:13 am

    Jason Stark on Tommy John Surgery…. prevalence and the surge in recurrence alomg with some myth shattering—- Not everyone come’s back in 12 months. Not everyone comes back “stinger and better”.

    • Stephen Luftschein
      May 1, 2014 at 12:17 pm

      Not sure where or when the 12 mos thing got started but it has always been accepted that you’d pitch again in 12-14 mos but that it was your second year back from the surgery where you would top out at whatever your new level would be. That’s why Mets fans should slow down w/ Harvey re next season. He will probably be back to 100% in 2016 if he is truly going to make it back.

      Editor’s Note – Please do not capitalize words in your post, as that is a violation of our Comment Policy.

    • Metsense
      May 2, 2014 at 8:40 am

      Thanks for the link. Great and informative article.
      I am a firm believer that you can never have enough pitching. In the Mets case, they also have credible 5th starters in Colon, Hefner, Matzusakis, and Torres. It is great to run out an above average starter every day but if the TJ epidemic hits there are still viable options. If the Mets are to improve they are going to have to trade some of their strengths to improve their weaknesses. The fact that they are so pitching rich when the majority of baseball teams are pitching poor should only increase the value of the Met pitchers on the trade market.

  8. Patrick Albanesius
    May 1, 2014 at 10:52 am

    Niese is a fantastic asset both now, in the future, and possibly even in a trade. If he pitches 180-200 innings of sub-4 ERA, I’d say we got more than our money’s worth. If he continues how he’s been pitching, he could be the best under-the-radar pitcher in the NL.

  9. juan
    May 2, 2014 at 4:30 pm

    To say that these starting pitchers for the Mets are like the rotation of Tom Seaver-Jerry Koosman-Jon Matlack-Bob Apodaca-even Craig Swan……………they need to prove they can pitch and stay healthy. Pitchers today are placed on baby care —anything from a blister to a hang nail can sideline anyone ..back then unless their legs or arms were broken you could count on them always …………Yes there is an epidemic of arm trouble—why??? Well take a look back and you will see pitchers using their legs to drive off the mound rather then buff in the weight room and look good. Go back and see the likes of Tom Seaver—-Nolan Ryan and power pitchers and you will see all have the same thing—drive off the mound—-and their knee touched ground on the follow through………….

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