Jon Niese in two halves

We neglected to mention Niese in our list of Mets MVPs for June and perhaps that was a mistake, as he was 3-1 with a 1.89 ERA in five starts.

Niese’s strikeout-to-walk ratio for the month was resemblant of R.A. Dickey, 34-to-5.

The key to that was fastball command. Niese threw his fastball for strikes 72 percent of the time last month, up from 61 percent in April and May.

- Mark Simon, ESPN New-York

Mark Simon point out things we all missed, as he is wont to do. I had no idea that Niese had pitched that well in June. I guess that’s what happens when Johan Santana throws a no-hitter and R.A. Dickey does what R.A. Dickey does in the same month.

Anyway. Niese is on pace to have the best season of his career, posting a 3.55 ERA and 106 ERA+, the breakout performance the Mets were banking on when they signed Niese to an extension this spring. That is, it’s a breakout performance except that Niese has done this exact same thing in the first half of every season in his young career:

And then this happens the next three months:

Niese’s performance was far, far worse in the second half of 2010 and 2011, which is why his career ERA still sits at a less-than-impressive 4.23. (Dillon Gee’s career ERA is 4.14. Is anyone else on the Dillon Gee bandwagon yet? There’s plenty of room ya’ll. I made brownies. Guys? Guys? No wait, let me show you this handmade pamphlet on xFIP.) Note Niese has allowed 307 hits in 300.1 first-half innings, and then 193 hits in 159 second-half innings. His strikeout-to-walk rate has dropped a bit in the second-halves, but that’s not as alarming as the huge rise in hits. Also note the 12 unearned runs in 2010, when Niese pitched even worse than his ERA shows.

Niese’s second-half struggles could be just a fluky statistical thing — particularly if we want to account for the huge rise in hits by citing BABIP and leaving things at that — but it is something to keep an eye on this season. I’m still not totally sold on the Niese extension, but this year’s second half should prove an early test for that deal. Or something.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Jon Niese in two halves

  1. He definitely struggled in May (which may have had something to do with Thole being on the DL) and recovered from it nicely to find some consistency. I think he is more capable of handling a bad start now and not letting it turn into a rut. Time will tell, but he just might be that solid number 3 starter afterall.

  2. Have we ever before had an entire starting rotation made up of guys who seem to defy normal analysis/projection like this?

    The Mets could have the worst starting rotation in baseball in the second half, or the best, and I don’t think either result would surprise us at this point.

    • Patrick Flood

      Good point. Niese with second half questions, Santana and Young have health questions. I think the Mets more or less know what they’ll get out of Dickey and Gee. But the questionable rotation remains questionable, though they pitched well in the first half.

      • Well, Gee and Dickey have more or less the same question: can they keep striking men out at this crazy-improved rate?

        In Gee’s case, if he does keep it up, can he actually pitch up to his shiny new xFIP? Or is it just a mirage, and he is the 4.50 ERA guy we all thought he was?

        In Dickey’s case, he’d still be great if he went back to being 2011 Dickey, but it’d mean a big drop-off from what he’s done in the first half.

  3. I hope Niese finally puts together a good second half. I’ve heard people say he’s in better shape, or that the nose will help, or the he was young and still developing. I don’t know what all he has to do to have a solid second half, I just know that we need him to.

  4. Niese may have just gotten a head-start on his lousy second-halves…

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