Maggie Wiggin, ContributorAfter an injury-plagued 2013 and a Spring Training shortened by both shoulder and elbow concerns, Jon Niese‘s performance throughout the month of April has been remarkable.
He has a 2.20 ERA this season after Tuesday’s start against the Phillies, during which he pitched through cold, rainy weather and allowed just one run and four hits through seven innings.
“It seems like the more I pitch in cold weather, the more I figure out how to stay warm,” Niese said after the game.
In five starts this season, Niese has averaged well over six innings per start and has given up a total of just eight runs. He’s shown excellent control with a walk rate well below average, despite pitching in some difficult conditions. His fastball velocity is down a tick from last year, but he’s likely still building strength and in the meantime, he’s mixing his pitches effectively and keeping hitters off balance…
Niese has also continued to show a solid approach at the plate. His four walks not only lead the league among pitchers, no other team’s staff has more than three total. For a Mets team that has yet to see a pitcher get a hit, every bit of production helps.
Of course, it’s early and Niese is very unlikely to maintain his 2.20 ERA throughout the season. He’s stranding runners at an unsustainable rate and his batting average on balls in play is well below his career norm. We should expect more hits to fall in against him and more baserunners to score as the season goes on.
Nonetheless, he’s off to an excellent start and showing a lot of good signs for the season ahead. If his ERA ends up around his current FIP of 3.58, that would be an improvement over last year and his best season since he put up a 3.40 in 2012. Most importantly, he’s healthy and effective, which no one could have counted on before the season started. His health, like his ace-like ERA, may not hold up over the course of the year, but he’s off to a great start.