During the down years of the 1990s, Bobby Jones was one of the steadier starting pitching in the New York Mets rotation.
Shortly before the hype of those three, another young pitcher made his debut. It began in 1993 when Bobby Jones pitched his first game for the Mets.
Jones was highly-regarded in his early years. It’s only natural for a first-round draft pick. Those are supposed to be the ones to carry your team to glory.
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Jones actually got off to a pretty good start. On the horrific 1993 Mets, he went 2-4 with a 3.65 ERA in nine starts. He followed it up with an even better year in 1994. That season he went 12-7 with a 3.15 ERA.
Through the next few seasons, Jones did something many other young Mets pitchers couldn’t. He got outs and he stayed healthy. Jones made 30+ starts every year from 1995-1998.
It wasn’t until 1999 when injuries and poor performance became a problem. He saw his innings cut down and his ERA inflate upward.
Looking at Jones’ numbers in New York, he reminds me of someone else from the recent past—Jon Niese. Like Jones, Niese was a quality arm in the rotation that nobody really appreciated much. There is an obvious reason for it. The Mets weren’t very good for most of Niese’s tenure just as they missed the playoffs during most of Jones’ better years.
Jones ended up making 190 starts for the Mets in parts of eight seasons. Combined with his three appearances in relief he was 74-56 with a 4.13 ERA.
When compared to Niese, it’s pretty close. Niese made 188 starts and another nine appearances out of the bullpen. He was 61-62 with a 3.99 ERA. Although better at run-prevention, it’s also worth remembering the eras these two played in.
Jones had an ERA+ of 101 while with the Mets signifying he was a hair above average. Meanwhile, Niese settled in with an ERA+ of 94 which suggests he was below-average.
But I don’t really want to compare these two. Instead, let’s just focus on some of the things Jones did well.
In 1997, we saw Jones put together the best season of his career. He went 15-9 with a 3.63 ERA. The performance was good enough to land him his only All-Star selection.
Jones did manage to pitch in one final big game for the Amazins before his run in Flushing was over. In Game 4 of the 2000 NLDS, Jones tossed a one-hit shutout against the San Francisco Giants to clinch the series. A Jeff Kent double to leadoff the fifth inning was the only hit he allowed.
It was a nice way for Jones to cap off his career with the team even if he did make two more bad starts in the postseason later on.
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Nevertheless, Jones is one of those underappreciated starters from the 1990s. In a decade where the team had more notable busts than aces, Jones was a reliable arm the team could usually count on to give them some quality innings every fifth day.