Normally, I might say David Wright when it comes down to who might be the most indispensable Met this season. Wright is, after all, the center of the Mets’ offensive universe and when he’s hitting it elevates the entire team.
However, I’m a pitching guy first and when I posed the question to myself this morning Jon Niese popped up as the answer.
With the trade of R.A. Dickey to Toronto and Johan Santana entering his walk year coming off another injury, Niese, despite a career-high 13 wins last year, is the No. 1 starter.
Dillon Gee is a health question and the No. 5 starter is anybody’s guess, so it comes down to the necessity of Niese having to pitch well every fifth day to minimize the losing streaks, which will happen as they do every year. It was Dickey who kept the Mets on an even keel last summer; Niese must now do the same.
The Mets always liked Niese, as evidenced by the long-term contract they gave him and refusal to discuss him in trade talks. When teams call the Mets, they ask for Niese, a hard-throwing lefthander, with major league success and a manageable contract.
Niese showed signs last year, but there were also too many games when he couldn’t put away a key hitter, which meant not closing out an inning and therefore losing a chance to win.
Niese logged 190.1 innings, perhaps his most important statistic coming out of his 30 starts. The Mets need at least 30 more innings from him, which should be reasonable if he makes 34 starts.
Niese averaged over seven strikeouts and just over two walks per nine innings, decent numbers but improvable nonetheless. A starter for three years, Niese made gradual improvement, but hasn’t had the breakout season that would label him a No. 1 starter. He’s not afraid to challenge hitters, but doesn’t always finish at-bats. Not as bad as Mike Pelfrey in that regard, but a quality he must improve.
The Mets are counting on Niese and Matt Harvey to take big strides if they are to have the kind of summer that will make people forget Dickey and be competitive enough to be playing meaningful games in September.
Nobody can realistically expect much from Harvey after ten starts, but Niese has made 94, with only two complete games. There are signs indicating he’s heading in the right direction. With a career high 190.1 innings last year, Niese’s hits and runs allowed declined for the third straight season.
Victories are a team thing, with Niese needing support from his hitters, fielders and bullpen. Some think victories by a pitcher are an overrated stat, but they are not. When a pitcher has a lot of victories it means he’s keeping his team in the game and giving them a chance to win.
Winning is what it is all about, and for that to happen for the Mets, Niese must start cashing in his potential checks.