The Mets suddenly have a serious problem regarding Jon Niese…
For the better part of three months, Jon Niese was among the best left-handed pitchers in the game with a 2.88 ERA in 13 starts between June 5 and August 15.
But suddenly, the Mets have a developing problem with Niese in the starting rotation.
Niese was ineffective for the third straight start on Tuesday night – all against last place teams – allowing six runs and seven hits with two walks in only five innings of work for his first loss since July 24.
Five of the six runs Niese allowed came in the third inning.
“It was just that one inning in the third, I made the same mistakes to the same two guys,” Niese said.
The problem was, Niese allowed another run in the fifth inning to put the Mets in a deep 6-0 hole.
“When I was going good, I was able to throw all my pitches in the bottom of the zone on a consistent basis,” Niese explained about his recent slump. “Right now, I am leaving a few pitches up, making too many mistakes and not getting away with them.”
He looks very much like he did when he hit his rut early in the year. Instead of getting that good downward trajectory on his curve and two-seamer, they’re floating horizontally across the strike zone. While the radar gun suggests he has his velocity, the lack of downward movement is making those pitches less deceptive, and that they’re in the middle of the zone makes it all that much worse for Niese.
But there’s a more fascinating twist to Niese’s recent struggles.
His last three starts have all come on regular rest, during which he’s posted a 6.96 ERA when pitching on four days rest.
Is that an anomaly, or is there something to it?
After Monday’s start against the Nationals, Niese – who has a 9.92 ERA in his last three starts – will be a part of a new six-man rotation which will afford him extra rest in between starts. But he has become a growing concern for Terry Collins and the Mets as the end of the season draws closer.
Are his problems the result of a slump, or is he struggling through the dog days of summer and suffering from the fatigue of a long season? Collins didn’t seem to think so on Tuesday, but with decisions needing to be made for a playoff rotation, Niese has to straighten himself out quickly if he is going to be a trusted source for a seven-game series.
Fortunately, Bartolo Colon has revived his season begun to pitch well again, and he could be thrown back into the mix if Niese continues to stagger.
The Mets have certainly shown they have the offense to overcome these poor outings, but they won’t necessarily have that opportunity against the upper-echelon of the league come October. So it’s vital Niese work his way through these problems and begin to resemble the pitcher he was in the middle of the season.