by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Readers of this site know that the Mets’ Jonathan Niese has long been a favorite of mine. Having shown glimpses in the past, the question was if he was going to be able to stay healthy and put it together for an entire season.
Obviously there were questions in Spring Training and we are only one month in, but thus far Niese may be living up to expectations. After Tuesday’s gem against the Phillies he is the owner of a stellar 2.20 ERA and 1.04 WHIP over 32.2 innings.
The question is, can he continue at this pace?
There’s no question that luck has been on his side, thus far, with a .247 BABIP and 87.3% strand rate. Both numbers are going to regress (especially considering a 24.2% line drive rate), and that’s going to lead to the ERA and WHIP to rise. Is it debilitating? Probably not…
The fact is that there is room in most of his other metrics for improvement. He is throwing strikes, with a 2.20 BB/9, something that he definitely could maintain (2.79 for his career).
Currently the owner of a 6.61 K/9, he’s posting a career worst 6.3% SwStr%. Over the course of his career he owns a 7.9% mark, so there should be an opportunity for more strikeouts as the season moves on. In fact, April has historically been his worst month for strikeouts, with a career mark of 6.51. It’s the only month where he owns a K/9 below 7.00.
He also owns a 45.3% groundball rate as compared to a career mark of 49.2%. Again, the potential is there for an improvement.
Is it enough of an improvement to offset a reduction in luck? Probably not, but it is more than enough to keep him viable. There are likely going to be some bumps, but that should be expected of any pitcher sporting his luck profile. The fact is that Niese is showing signs of putting it together. Don’t shy away, even if he does take a small step back. This could be the year, so buy now if it’s not too late.