Jon Niese: Mets Season In Review


Today, our Mets Season in Review series shifts its attention to pitcher Jon Niese.

After David Wright, Daniel Murphy and Jon Niese are the longest tenured Mets.

August 27, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Mets pitcher Jon Niese throws against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: John Munson/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports

And maybe more than any other player on the Mets roster, Jon Niese provides fans with the most anxiety, and the organization with the most uncertainty.

How he fared in 2014:

Despite his second trip to the disabled list in 2 years, Jon arguably put together the second best season of his career (2012 being his finest).

His 30 starts in 2014 equaled a career high; his 3.40 ERA equaled his career low; and his 1.268 WHiP and 2.2 BB/9 established career bests.

Jon’s 187.2 innings pitched were also the second most in his career, and a 9.3 H/9 was his second lowest mark.

However, with 3.4 runs of support per game Niese posted a 9-11 record, with 10 no-decisions.  He failed to gain double-digit victories for the second straight season, and his 11 defeats matched a career high.

With 3 starts in 2008, 5 in 2009, and 5 full seasons since, Jon Niese now owns a career 52-51 record with a 3.87 ERA.

Areas to improve upon:

In a word – Health.

In June 2013, Jon Niese was placed on the disabled list with a partially torn rotator cuff.  He opted for rest and rehabilitation over surgery, and returned to finish the season.  During the off-season he continued to follow his prescribed plan of rest and rehabilitation.

In February/Spring Training 2014, Jon Niese was flown to New York for an MRI after experiencing discomfort in his shoulder.  That test came back negative.

In March, he was flown to New York for a second MRI after experiencing pain in his left triceps.  Although that test also came back negative, Niese missed his Opening Day assignment, and instead pitched his first game on April 6th.

On July 4th against the Texas Rangers, Jon Niese threw just 12 pitches, recorded 1 out, allowed 2 hits (1 home run), then exited the game.

On July 6th, he was placed on the 15-day DL once again due to soreness in his shoulder, and once again he opted against surgery.

Jon Niese posted an 0-4 record with a 5.76 ERA in his first 4 games back, allowing 33 hits in 25 innings.  He finally posted a victory on August 11th.

A few days earlier, Adam Ruben wrote Jon Niese had indeed altered his delivery to compensate for shoulder soreness.

During the 2011 season, Niese’s 4-seam fastball averaged 90.5mph, and his 2-seam clocked in at 89.7mph.  His overall velocity has dropped each year since.  In 2014, he fell glaringly below 90mph for the first time in his career.  The effective difference  between his 2-seam fastball (88.3mph) and his 4-seam fastball (88.8mph) has been rendered inconsequential.

Jon also relied on his change-up at a career high 9.2% rate in 2014, which came at the expense of his cutter and curveball.  Niese threw his curveball at his lowest rate (16.9%) since 2010.

It’s little wonder then, that for the second straight season he posted a career low 6.6 K/9 average, while his 22.5 line drive percentage set a career high.

Lastly, in his final start of the season, Jon removed himself from the game after experiencing an accelerated heart rate.  It’s a condition the Mets were aware of, and one Jon seems to manage successfully.  He does not take medication, nor does he require special treatment.

Projected role in 2015:

Jon Niese presently remains the lone left-handed pitcher in the Mets starting rotation.  Barring a transaction, he figures to fill his usual role in the middle of the rotation.

Contract status and trade rumors:

After completing his second full season in 2011, Jon Niese signed a 5-year, $25.27 million dollar contract (plus 2 options) in April 2012.

  • 2012 – $769,500
  • 2013 – $3,000,000
  • 2014 – $5,000,000
  • 2015 – $7,000,000
  • 2016 – $9,000,000
  • 2017 – *$10,000,000 (team option/$500,000 buyout)
  • 2018 – *$11,000,000 (team option/$500,000 buyout)

Jon’s name has continually surfaced in trade scuttlebutt.

Niese will turn 28-years old in October; he’s an effective southpaw; and is signed to a team friendly contract.  Those 3 factors make him a valuable chip for the Mets, and a worthy return for any potential trade partner.

Trading Bartolo Colon or Dillon Gee is preferable, but Jon Niese is by far the most attractive MLB pitcher the Mets can presently offer without tapping into their younger arms.

The Mets anticipate a healthy Matt Harvey returning in 2015, which poses an acute log jam in next season’s starting rotation.  Harvey will tentatively join Zack Wheeler and Jacob deGrom.  That leaves Jon Niese, Dillon Gee and Bartolo Colon vying for 2 remaining spots.  In early April, that won’t be an issue.  But, when the schedule normalizes, so must the starting rotation.

In 2015, Sandy Alderson will also likely promote Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero, with yet more pitching prospects to follow in the near future.

While not exactly at surplus levels, the Mets are now in a position where they can utilize this growing strength to perhaps upgrade shortstop or obtain an outfielder.

Otherwise, there is also every reason to keep Jon Niese.

That said, his potentially lingering shoulder issues can short-circuit even the best laid plans.

General managers seem to realize this, as the Mets placed Jon Niese (and Curtis Granderson) on waivers in August, and the southpaw went unclaimed.