Mets Season Preview: Most likely Met to disappoint

By Danny Abriano
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May 16, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Jon Niese (49) throws during the second inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Lecolant, Staff Writer:

After his Spring Training debut, Jon Niese admitted he grew tired. Quite frankly, that’s the last thing I wanted to hear. Niese is my pick for most likely Met to disappoint.

Last season, Niese elected against surgery to repair a partially torn rotator cuff suffered in 2013. He instead opted on a prescribed plan of rest and rehabilitation. During last year’s Spring Training, he underwent a pair of precautionary MRI’s, then proceeded to post arguably the second best season of his career. However, lingering shoulder soreness clearly affected his velocity.

Niese also admitted he withheld the level of pain with which he pitched in 2014, which in turn caused him to experiment with different arm angles. As a result, his fastball was consistently clocked at 88mph – down from his usual 93mph. But, if you remember, Niese initially led us to believe he was sacrificing velocity for the sake of better control.

It’s also worth noting that at times throughout the 2014 season, Niese’s varying levels of frustration additionally inspired him to act disrespectfully towards Terry Collins.

My hope then entering 2015 was for a healthier, and wiser Jon Niese. After another offseason of rest and rehabilitation, Jon Niese pitched very well this Spring. But, since Niese initially opted against surgery, he has yet to effectively relieve the specter of serious injury, while matters of comportment remain to be seen.

Now 28, Niese is entering his physical prime years as an athlete, which happens to coincide with the Mets’ potential return to playoff contention. He, like the Mets, must demonstrate an ability to take his game to a higher level of competitiveness this season.

In 2012, Niese posted career highs in starts, innings pitched, victories, strikeouts, and posted career bests in H/9, ERA, and WHIP. That makes Niese’s 2014 season particularly intriguing considering he pitched with lingering (delivery altering) pain. His 187.2 innings pitched were his second most, his .304 BABIP was his second best, his 30 starts and a 3.40 ERA matched his career best, and he set his career mark with a 2.2 BB/9 average.

In fact, Niese has managed a 3.49 ERA in 521 innings pitched over his last three seasons.

If Niese has been able to manage that with a compromised shoulder, the next question obviously is what can a more mature Jon Niese accomplish with a healthy shoulder?

There’s the rub….

If healthy, revisiting his 2012 season (3.40 ERA) simply will not d0. I will view anything less than across the board improvement as a major disappointment.

Next: Dan Haefeli's pick for Met who will disappoint