Jon Niese: Consistently Boring, Therefore Useful

Jon Niese has turned into a steady, decent fantasy play. While he is not one of the biggest names in the league, he has given consistent results over his short career. He is a nice addition to fill out a fantasy pitching staff as a draft progress.

Niese is sneaky decent. The 26-year-old left-hander doesn’t overpower hitters with his 90 mph fastball, but he gets a decent number of strikeouts. Not one of his traits really stands out as seen by his 2012 stats:

Stat: League rank among qualified starters
K% (19.6%): 51st
BB% (6.9%): 52nd
HR/9 (0.97): 64th
FIP (3.80): 45th

In 2012, he came in as the 26th-highest rated pitcher in the league in Zach Sander’s end of season rankings. The main reason for the high jump, compared to his peripheral stats, was his 3.40 ERA after posting a 4.40 ERA in 2011.

Over the last two seasons, he had almost identical stats:

Stat: 2011 season, 2012 season
K%: 20%, 20%
BB%: 6%, 6%
HR/9. 0.8, 1.0

The lower 2011 home run rate pushed his ERA estimators (FIP, xFIP, SIERA) a little lower than his 2012 values:

Season: FIP, xFIP, SIERA
2011: 3.36, 3.28, 3.42
2012: 3.80, 3.64, 3.71

He was a bit unlucky in 2011 and bit lucky in 2012. Maybe in 2013 all will even out. Considering his past couple seasons pitching, I would expect his 2013 ERA to be around the 3.60 level.

Injuries have been an issue Niese has dealt with in the past. 2012 was the first the season of the last 4 when he he didn’t spend time on the disabled list.

Season: Injury (days lost)
2009: Torn right hamstring (60)
2010: Strained right hamstring (19)
2011: Rib injury – strained right interscostal (36)

A highlight from the list is none of the injuries were because of arm issues. None of his traits point to him being an injury risk (he has a high Zone% and a constant fastball speed).

Not every pitcher on a fantasy team can be an ace. Teams need steady pitchers to fill out a staff after a team has already picked a few pitchers. Jon Niese falls into that category. With these pitchers, an owner may strike gold with the pitcher being a bit lucky and the pitchers are able to have a lower than expected ERA or compile a nice win total. Who knows. Jon Niese isn’t going to win a fantasy league for an owner, but he is not going to lose it for them either.

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Jeff writes for FanGraphs, The Hardball Times and Royals Review, as well as his own website, Baseball Heat Maps with his brother Darrell. In tandem with Bill Petti, he won the 2013 SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

6 Responses to “Jon Niese: Consistently Boring, Therefore Useful”

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  1. The Guillentine says:

    I streamed him for many starts during the season. The amount of times I streamed him, i felt he should have been a must-start every time. Niese has become one of my favorite under the radar pitchers. Great article.

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  2. Dan says:

    I bought him for $1 last year, and kept him the whole year, doing exactly what this article said, not getting hurt and giving me decent lines the whole time. I hope I can get him again close to a buck.

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  3. Alex says:

    A future rotation of Wheeler, Harvey, Niese, Syndergaard, and Mejia/Familia/Gee/FA pitcher is a very good start for the Mets. Dare I say top of the league type rotation one day?

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    • BurleighGrimes says:

      Wheeler & Harvey look like they could be top of the rotation starters, Niese is a great #3, & Gee is a serviceable pitcher, but plenty of folks are projecting Syndergaard, Mejia, & Familia to all be relievers, with Syndergaard still a couple of years away from the big leagues. Still, that is a nice set of prospects / home grown talent to have.

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  4. Ruki Motomiya says:

    Niese is one of my favorite pitchers.

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  5. Aaron says:

    Thanks for the tip… I knew Jon Niese was a decent pitcher but did not think he was that useful for fantasy. I will keep an eye out for him in the later rounds.

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