Posted by Ernest Dove at 10:00 AM
Well, the playoffs are almost here and its decision time coming for the Mets (I still can't believe it's really happening).
Of all the decisions coming up for the Mets one that has become very interesting to me is that with Mr. Niese. Love him or hate him, Jon Niese has been a constant on this team since making his debut in 2008 with a brief cup of coffee on the team that year. And so began his entire career up till now, pitching for a losing team, through the good and bad (mostly bad). Niese has even pitched opening day, and has shown some level of consistency on this team, and has since remained one of the few players within the organization the past number of years to be given an extended long term contract. From what I understand, while becoming more and more expensive through the contract years, 2016 looks to be the last of the guaranteed years, with 2017-18 both being 'team options'. Some would consider Niese an 'average' pitcher, and having stats like a career win loss record of 61 wins and.......well...... 61 losses almost fits the description in and of itself.
But Niese remains a 28 year old LEFTY pitcher who has been said to be finally pitching healthy in 2015. But the playoffs are coming, and the Mets have already made a decision in regards to Niese role, if any, into October. And so far the results have not been promising.
The decision to place Niese into the bullpen has been an interesting one from the beginning. Obviously, the experience of Niese with this team and organization can be a factor, and being a lefty doesn't hurt. Niese is also a fighter who hates coming out of games and thus does make every effort to give his all for this team. I even noticed during his first relief appearance that he immediately topped 91 mph on his fastball, which for Niese is a good thing. However, the other results have not been promising.
Niese has given up 4 hits and a run in his two appearance spanning 2 total innings. And lefty hitters have had no problem during this time. And, as we know, getting righties out in the bullpen is not necessarily a problem for the Mets come postseason, and its the lefties this team is looking for help in getting out. Righty or lefty the fact remains that opposing hitting, during the month of September, were hitting .319 against Niese.
It also doesn't help that the manager himself has even admitted publically that he has concerns for Niese and "the big inning" of giving up multiple runs, like that recent string he had of giving up a 5 run inning twice back to back. So what are the managers, staff and fans supposed to think when seeing Niese possibly take the mound, regardless of situation, in the playoff spotlight?
Niese can pretty much match any player on the team, and the MLB, in intensity, and we know he wants the ball in his hands, but we've also seen instances in which Niese has let a walk or a hit lead to multiple walks and hits. Be it from a bad call, an error, or somebody on the Mets pulling a 'Murph", the concern remains that sometimes it all comes crashing down, very quickly.
I myself have continued to have concerns for the thought of Colon being in the bullpen for some of the same reasons. A 'soft tossing' pitcher needs pinpoint accuracy, And for Niese, he needs his breaking stuff to be extra sharp and crisp at all times to be effective. And the question is whether or not Niese can come into a game, virtually ice cold (compared to what he's used to) and literally get one lefty batter out if needed. And that lefty will most likely be one of the better and power hitting lefties in this league, especially if it its that one particular first baseman over there in Dodgerland.
We already know that the Mets have a projected rotation of guys all younger than Niese, with much less experience, but much more power and dominant potential. We already know that Niese has no innings limits or caps, and we still know that he is a lefty. But I'm wondering if Niese would even be a better option at this point as LOOGY then even the young, inexperienced and recently coming off injury Alvarez.
Every pitch will count in the postseason. Terry Collins and his staff will be prepared to make any moves necessary, especially with how the games are set up and spread out, and that would include, in my opinion, the option of literally pitching Reed, Clippard and Familia in all 5 possible games of the upcoming series with the Dodgers if needed.
And we've already seen Terry have not problem pitching the above named guys even with 4 and 5 run leads, in order to secure a run. So there's no telling how much use certain bullpen arms will get.....that is except for the role of the guy who may be asked to get a LEFTY out.
This is a game by game occurrence that will be coming for sure. Lefties are hitting .297 against Niese this year. In 162 plate appearance, opposing lefties though seem to only have 7 doubles, a triple and 4 homers about Niese. But the question remains the same, what to do with Niese come postseason? Does he face one batter, a lefty? Does he come in and be trusted with getting multiple outs in a close game. Would he only be on the roster to eat innings in a quick blow out loss? Not sure if that will happen or occur because of the potential of the Mets entire rotation being lined up for the series, and every series for the postseason.
There's the question, long term, of what to do with Niese. The team appears committed without the further services of Bartolo Colon going forward, even with his self report this week of possibly wanting to pitch in the league again next year.
However, the Mets were already going with a 6 man rotation as it was this year, and next year there would conceivably be no pitchers anymore on any kind of pitch limit. (Don't count Wheeler because he may only start half the season anyway).
This may be Jon Niese swan song with the Mets. And the jury is still out on whether or not he will get to experience his first taste of playoff baseball. Do I think he has the toughness for it......yes. Do I believe it would be a travesty if he was on the playoff roster.......no. Do I think he can help this team win games in the postseason and help them make it the promised land..................................
I'm wondering what everyone else out there thinks? I know there's any obvious knee jerk reaction to go with the negative here, but again Niese is healthy, a lefty, a fighter, and a competitor who has been with the team since 2008 and deserves his chance to shine in the games biggest spotlight because he still had a say in helping this team get here.