What’s wrong with Jon Niese?

By Justin Weiss

Posting the lowest ERA of his young career in 2014, Jon Niese was primed for a career season in 2015.

The Mets’ rotation, which was supposed to be among the best in the league, was supposed to feature Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler, Bartolo Colon, and Niese.

A season-ending injury to Wheeler and an injury to Gee in May meant an early season call-up of Noah Syndergaard, and when he returned, the front office decided that a six-man rotation should be in order.

Harvey has struggled a bit over his last two starts (by Harvey standards), but Harvey is The Dark Knight. And when he has a bad start, he rebounds and dominates in his next one. DeGrom has deGrominated hitters, simply overpowering them with his impressive command. Colon? Well, it appears that he will come out of most games he pitches in with a victory.

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Dillon Gee had the worst start of his career on Wednesday, and Jon Niese has been pitifully bad — putting up career-lows across the board.

Yet throughout everything, Niese has remained a constant in the rotation.

What happened to the pitcher that enjoyed a relatively low ERA and WHIP last season? Where did his stuff go?

Niese has recorded a 3-5 record and a 4.42 ERA this season. In his first six starts — in which he posted an impressive 1.95 ERA that belied his peripherals — he allowed nine runners in five innings, 11 in 6.1 innings, eight in 6.2 innings, ten runners in seven innings and six runners in seven innings.

It may be premature to say, but when Niese supposedly changed his arm angle to alleviate pain — beginning his release at a higher angle rather than a straight line — he may have hurt his stock.

Recently, hitters have adjusted well to Niese’s pitch selection. His velocity is constant with previous years — 88.9 MPH fastball, 75.2 MPH curveball — and his pitch selection (besides his changeup and cutter) is similar to prior seasons.

However, hitters are putting pitches into play more than in seasons past. In 2015, 14 runners reached base thanks to an infield hit. That’s a tremendous increase from 2014, just a couple of months into the regular season.


Because he’s a ground ball pitcher, and the underwhelming infield defense of Daniel Murphy, Wilmer Flores and Ruben Tejada isn’t awfully intimidating.

Additionally, Niese is on pace to give up 10% more homers than last season. He has a -1.28 WPA (Win Probability Added), which, if the season ended today, would be the worst of his career.

Batters have become less and less patient with Niese. Hitters are swinging more frequently at pitches in the strike zone than ever before. Even pitches outside the strike zone are being swung at 30.9% of the time.

“I’m concerned,” Mets manager Terry Collins said recently.

Jon Niese is also concerned. “It’s very surprising,” the 28-year-old stated. “It’s frustrating more than anything because my arm feels great, my body feels great.”

They have a reason to be concerned. Niese has been downright horrific so far this season.

To all of you ripping on the six-man rotation, think of it this way: because of the front office’s ingenuity, Mets fans might only have to see Niese once every six days.