Mets: Jon Niese’s performance belie his words

By Michael Lecolant

If we are to believe, as Jon Niese said after his May 24th start against Pittsburgh, that he hasn’t felt this good in a long time, then he, the Mets, and we fans have something very different to ponder aside from any potential, or perceived arm discomfort he might (or might not) be experiencing.

Since he last won on May 9th over the Phillies, Jon Niese made 4 starts, pitched 20 innings, allowed 20 earned runs on 31 hits (including home runs in each start), walked 6 and fanned 12 batters.

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

Saturday’s start was Niese’s shortest of the season, and piggybacked a 4.2 inning stint against the Pirates.  In fact, Saturday was the 5th time in 10 starts he failed to pitch into the 6th inning.

He threw 85 pitches against the Marlins Saturday, with 54 (63.5%) going for strikes.  Jon allowed 4 earned runs on 7 hits, and issued no walks with 3 strikeouts.  His record sits at 3-5, and 0-3 in his last 4 starts.  His ERA continued to grow, this time from 4.08 to a 4.42 mark.

He now leads the National League with 73 hits allowed.

However, a defiant Niese still champions the notion his mistakes are simply getting hit.  He reiterated his arm felt great after Saturday’s disappointing outing.

As Niese is a ground ball pitcher, has Wilmer Flores been a detriment to Jon Niese?  He is after all pitching to a career high 53.8% ground ball rate.

Flores has started at shortstop in 7 of Niese’s 10 starts this season.  Flores committed an error in 4 of those games.  In fact, Wilmer Flores committed his 10th error of the season on Saturday.  But with that said, Wilmer Flores is not a bad luck charm or an omen.

In this situation, the onus is on Niese whom needs to do a better job of bearing down, and overcoming mistakes in the field.  Instead, he loses composure, and the inning subsequently gets away from him.

Meanwhile, his fastball is getting hit at a career low 24.5%, but, he is throwing his fastball at a career low rate of 48.8%, while his velocity is at an all-time low 88.8 mph.  It’s no wonder then, he’s surrendering home runs at a career high 13.3% rate.

So, maybe Jon Niese knows himself better than we’re being inclined to believe, or not.  If we’re left to speculate, he’s either throwing with discomfort, or real pain, or, he is simply deteriorating as a pitcher then.

Only he can clarify what presently affects his performance.  But, at the risk of assuming too much, Jon might want to rethink his situation and reconsider corrective surgery.

Who knows how long this present 6-man rotation will last, but in the meantime, the Mets pitching staff is rapidly crowding with talented hurlers salivating over his spot in the rotation.  Therefore, he has a future at stake that might not involve the Mets.

His contract with the Mets expires after the 2016 season (with team options for 2017 and 2018).  So, with every poor start that goes by, he becomes increasingly expendable.

Over his 8-year career, we still haven’t figured out who the real Jon Niese is, but (in the words of Rich Sparago) will a better Jon Niese please stand up – for his own sake?