Jon Niese’s cutter, ability to throw strikes, and growth this season

In last night’s 3-1 loss to the Astros, Jon Niese allowed three runs and six hits with two walks and five strikeouts in seven innings.

“Jon did a good job,” Terry Collins said afterwards. “I told him when he came out of the [second] inning: ‘You put up some zeroes. Just put up some zeroes and let us have a shot.’ And he did that. So we can’t ask more than that.”

Niese fell to 10-7 for the year and his ERA rose slightly to 3.51 in 24 starts – he is 3-2 with a 2.29 ERA in four starts in the month of August.

It was Niese’s 15th consecutive outing he’s walked two batters or less in a game, and he has gone at least six innings in each of those 15 starts – he owns a 5.5:1 strikeout to walk ratio over that span.

Michael Baron, Contributor

The line for Niese looked good, but I thought his cutter was a little flat yesterday. He was able to throw it for strikes, but he left a few in the middle of the plate, and the Astros got to it when he did. Similar to his start against the Astros in May, Niese threw a lot of cutters at them last night, which was interesting considering how much he struggled with it in that outing. It was frustrating that the 7-8-9 hitters did the damage against him – four of the six hits the six hits he allowed came from that part of the Houston lineup. But he’s going to have days when he doesn’t have it all, loses his focus at times, or suffers through challenges which are out of his control – it’s about how he manages those times, but he was able to manage it well last night. Unfortunately, the runs he allowed were outside the margin for error for the rest of the team.

Maturity and growth are keys for Niese, especially now that he signed a long-term contract with the Mets. Call it a bright spot in what has turned into a miserable summer, but so far, he has been able to do that, as he’s shown an ability to stop the bleeding and limit damage in innings. As it was evidenced in last night’s outing, he’s also learning how to pitch without his best stuff, and that starts with his continued ability to throw strikes and keep that cutter down in the strike zone. In the past (and even at times earlier this season), Niese would simply meltdown and allow crooked numbers, but he’s clearly able to identify his shortcomings now and adjust from pitch-to-pitch during his outings.