Thursday, April 15, 2010
Evaluating Jon Niese
By Mark Simon
There's been a lot of talk of the struggles of John Maine in his first two starts. But what to make of the work of Jon Niese?
Niese has spoken about issues he was having getting a good feel for his curveball. The numbers through two starts bear that out. A closer look at video review data, provided by Inside Edge, shows the following:
Niese isn't someone who gets a lot of swings-and-misses with his breaking balls, but he's gotten none yet this season. His breaking pitches have been ripped for five base hits. He's allowed more hits with his hook than he's gotten outs (four).
In the first eight starts of his career, Niese allowed only six hits with his breaking pitches, and got 33 outs.
Perhaps most indicative of his issues so far, Niese has thrown his breaking ball 12 times with a two-strike count. That has yielded four hits, and no outs.
There's a little consolation in that his fastball is being chased more frequently when it's been out of the strike zone (an above-average rate of 30 percent of the time, up from 18 percent in his first two seasons), and that it's being missed more frequently (hitters are missing on 20.8 percent of their swings, up from 14.8 percent).
The problem is that when his fastball is being hit, batters are still hitting .308 against it.
Bobby Valentine did his share of reminiscing about losing three straight series to start a season as Mets manager. That happened to Valentine in 1997, when the Mets got off to a 3-9 start, one that included allowing 11 runs in an inning on Opening Day, and three extra-inning walk-off losses.
In the annals of forgettable seasons though, 1997 isn't one of them. Valentine's Mets turned things around. He talked on Baseball Tonight about the need for little victories, which will produce bigger victories down the road.
The 1997 Mets had their share. Two that made Valentine smile were a 6-0 victory over the Yankees in the first meeting between the two teams, and an improbable rally from a 6-0 deficit against the Expos with two outs in the ninth inning. The 1997 Mets finished 88-74 and were in the hunt for a playoff spot late into the season.
Current fans of the team probably aren't seeing the same kind of turnaround in store for this squad.