How is Niese Holding Up in the Second Half?

One of the biggest questions going into 2011 for the Mets was how Jon Niese would hold up in the second half. In the first half of 2010, Niese enjoyed a 3.61 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, and 2.61 K/BB, with a respectable .268/.332/.405 line against. However, in the second half, the young Niese seemed to fall apart. He posted a 4.82 ERA, 1.57 WHIP, and 2.21 K/BB with a .293/.359/.472 line against. Needless to say, the two halves illustrated two very different pitchers. But now with a full season under his belt, and most of the way through his second, it might be a good time to check-in on Jon Niese.

On the surface, Niese appears to be crumbling again in the second half, as suggested by his 5.08 ERA and 1.44 WHIP. But ERA/WHIP aside, the lefty has also managed a dominant 5.00 K/BB. His improved command (from 2.63 K/BB in the first half) is fueled by a pleasant spike in strikeouts (from 7.4 K/9 in first half to 9.5 K/9), and new-found pinpoint control (from 2.82 BB/9 in first half to 1.90 BB/9). Niese has also been extremely unlucky in July and August, sporting a .345 and .526 BABIP, respectively, in those two months.

Despite the different-looking halves, Jon Niese has pitched far better across the boards in 2011 than he did in 2010. In 2011, the 24 year-old has posted a better xFIP (3.80 vs. 3.21), higher ground-ball rate (47.7% vs. 52.2%), lower HR/FB percentage (11.8% vs. 9.6%), superior control (3.21 BB/9 vs. 2.64 BB/9), and has even more juice on his pitches (0.9 MPH more on fastball, 1.6 MPH more on cutter, and 3.1 MPH more on change-up). In addition, opposing hitters are swinging at more of Niese’s pitches outside the strike zone (27.9% vs. 33.3%), which is a positive testament to his improving arsenal of pitches.

Considering Niese’s evident improvements across all important peripheral categories overall, his slight second half struggles should certainly be treated with a grain of salt–as opposed to the second half struggles he endured in 2010. At such a young age, the southpaw looks to have a very bright future with the New York Mets, and might even become more of a number two starter-type in 2012.

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