Schott: Mets Need Niese To Keep “Quality” Up

(Neil Miller/Sportsday Wire)

Jonathon Niese is as key to the Mets’ fortunes as anyone down the stretch. He is one of the longest-tenured Mets, and sort of an ol’ reliable on this team.

Niese is kind of forgotten about on a team that boasts three dynamic pitchers in Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard, and filled with new stud hitters like Yoenis Cespedes, Juan Uribe, and Kelly Johnson.

Niese’s season started decently in April, allowing just one run in three starts, followed up by allowed six runs, four earned, on eight hits in five innings against the Yankees on April 26th.

This was the start of a bad stretch for Niese, in which he hit rck bottom in May. After allowing one run on nine hits in seven innings to the Nationals on May 2nd, he went 0-4 with a 9.00 ERA in his next four starts that month. That included outings in which he allowed eight runs to the Cardinals and four each to the Pirates and Marlins.

Starting with his outing on June 5th in Arizona, when Niese allowed three runs in six innings and struck out eight, he has had 11 “quality starts” in 12 outings, including Monday night. Against the Rockies, he went 7 innings, and allowed just two runs, both on a Carlos Gonzalez home run, six hits, no walks, and five strikeouts.

Niese has allowed more than three runs just once in over two months. That came in an outing in which he probably shouldn’t have started due to the impending birth of his second child, July 24th against the Dodgers in which he gave up six runs on eight hits in three innings.

He has brought his ERA down from 4.43 on June 5th to 3.51 entering Monday night. Any time a pitcher shaves a run off his ERA in that short period of time, you know he has been on a historic run.

Collins said of Niese’s run ahead of his start on Monday night, “Jon Niese has been overshadowed a little bit, but I don’t think he cares. I think he’s just, ‘hey, look, I’ll look what I can do’ and, when he started to get command of his fastball, things changed. There was a start, all of a sudden his two-seamer was back and he used his curveball so effectively that all of the sudden the change-up was an effective pitch, the cutter, it became effective. Now he’s just commanding everything, one of those kind of guys, he doesn’t try to strike anybody out, he gets ground balls…He’s done an outstanding job, he’s kept us in games, he goes deep in games on minimal pitches. He certainly, as we’ve been through this whole stretch, and he’s been out there with teams that have run nine right-handed hitters at him, and it hasn’t fazed him one bit. He just continues to make pitches.”

Niese and Bartolo Colon loom large for the Mets in August, September, and they are hopeful, October because of innings limits on the three heralded phenoms, Harvey, deGrom, and Syndergaard.

Collins recently addressed innings limits and how they relate to the pennant race and postseason. “When that point comes, then we can make decisions. We’re not going to sit here and look in the crystal ball and say ‘this guy is not going to be able to pitch in the playoffs’ because one thing I got crucified for was the six-man rotation, which was going to keep these guys rested…enough to pitch in the playoffs. Now with them on the five-day plan, they are going to get to those limits and if they’re tired, they’re not going to pitch anymore.”

Harvey has a limit of around 195 innings, and is at 140 right now. deGrom’s limit is 215 innings, and he is at 139 2/3. Syndergaard’s limit is 175, with 98 2/3 innings to this point.

Collins continued, “We’re walking the fine line right now because their competitiveness is driving them to dominate. When you dominate, you stay in games longer. That means you pitch more innigns, which means you get closer to those numbers we have to be careful of.”

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