Jon Niese has regressed to the mean; Where do Mets go from here?

By Danny Abriano

Jon Niese‘s last two starts have been difficult to watch, but the results shouldn’t have surprised anyone. After a first month that seemed unsustainable, Niese has regressed to the mean.

Niese, who currently sports a 3.72 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, and 4.32 FIP, entered his start before last with a 1.95 ERA and a FIP that was nearly twice that. Coming into Tuesday night’s start, Niese’s ERA was 2.49. Here’s why Niese’s ‘hot’ start to 2015 was unsustainable…

  • Broken down by start, over his first six outings, Niese allowed nine base runners in five innings, 11 base runners in 6.1 innings, eight base runners in 6.2 innings, nine base runners in five innings, 10 base runners in seven innings, and six base runners in seven innings.
  • Niese’s only ‘good start’ between the beginning of the season and May 14, was his start on May 9 at Philadelphia.
  • So far this season, Niese’s strikeout rate — 5.21 — is the lowest it’s ever been in his career. Niese’s strikeout rate was 6.62 last season.
  • Niese’s fastball velocity — 88.5 MPH on average — is identical to last season. However, he’s shied away from his cutter while throwing changeups far more often.
  • Niese’s hard hit percentage is 32.8, the highest it’s been since 2010.

When you allow tons of base runners in nearly every start, you’re bound to run out of luck. And that’s exactly what’s happened to Niese.

Over his last two starts, Niese has allowed 14 runs (12 earned) and 17 hits in 11.1 innings while striking out just three and walking two. While it’s nice to see that the walks are down, Niese is not missing bats, and his fringy stuff is resulting in tons of hard contact.

To go along with Niese’s poor performance so far this season is the fact that he may not be fully healthy.

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Niese has dealt with shoulder issues over the last few seasons, and said prior to the season that he had changed his arm angle. The arm angle adjustment was something Niese did last year in order to alleviate pain in his shoulder.

Niese is under contract for one more season, set to earn a shade over $9 million in 2016. It’s hard to see the Mets taking someone who’s set to earn that much out of the rotation, but the success of the team should be the main consideration — not concern over a sunk cost.

Prior to Niese’s start on Tuesday night, the question the Mets were apparently asking themselves was whether or not they were going to keep Noah Syndergaard in the rotation when Dillon Gee returns from the disabled list.

Now, it’s fair to wonder if the Mets will be deciding between Gee and Niese.

Terry Collins said after last night’s game that he doesn’t see Niese heading to the bullpen, but that doesn’t mean a phantom — or actual — disabled list stint isn’t in his near future.

For the Mets, taking Syndergaard out of the rotation for Gee would’ve been a poor decision. Taking Syndergaard out while leaving both Gee and Niese in the rotation would be an even worse call. And it’s one I can’t see the Mets making. Over the next week or so, something will have to give.