Saturday, September 29, 2012

Top 3 Lefty Homegrown Starters: Koosman, Matlack ... Niese?

On Friday night, Jonathon Niese made his 30th and final start of the season for the Mets, holding the Braves to one run in seven innings to collect his career-high 13th win.  Niese also held Chipper Jones hitless in three at-bats on the night the Braves were celebrating the future Hall of Famer's career in Atlanta.  This was nothing new for Niese, as he held Jones to a .174 career batting average against him (4-for-23), with half of those hits coming before Niese became a regular in the Mets' starting rotation.

Since Niese joined the staff for good in 2010, Jones has batted 21 times against the Mets' southpaw and has only reached base twice for a .095 on-base percentage.  Niese has also never walked Jones in 24 career plate appearances.  That's not a typo, as every Niese-Jones confrontation has ended without the home plate umpire telling Jones to take his base.

Jonathon Niese's ability to retire Chipper Jones is one that eluded many Mets pitchers over the years.  But Jones is not the only batter who has struggled against Niese.  In fact, as Niese has matured from a 21-year-old rookie pitching at Shea Stadium in 2008 to one of the most reliable arms on the staff as a 25-year-old, many hitters have gone back to the dugout shaking their heads after failing to reach base against him.

In 2012, Niese enjoyed his finest season to date, establishing career highs across the board.  Niese achieved personal bests in wins (13), ERA (3.40), WHIP (1.17), innings pitched (190⅓), strikeouts (155), batting average against (.241), walks per nine innings (2.3) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.2).  At age 25, Niese has been a Met for all or parts of five seasons, making his way up the franchise's all-time pitching leaderboards with every start he makes.

Those leaderboards are loaded with names like Seaver, Gooden, Darling, Cone, etc.  What do all of those pitchers have in common?  They were all right-handed starters.  Similarly, left-handed starting pitchers Sid Fernandez, Al Leiter and (ahem) Tom Glavine are also all over the Mets' all-time leaderboards for pitchers but none of them came up through the Mets' farm system and all of them made their major league debuts pitching for another team.

If not for Jerry Koosman and Jon Matlack, the Mets' all-time pitching leaderboards would be bereft of homegrown southpaws.  So if Koosman and Matlack are the two best homegrown left-handed starters in franchise history, then who would be third?  Believe it or not, that third member might just be Jonathon Niese.  Don't believe it?  Let's look at where Niese ranks among all other homegrown left-handed starting pitchers in Mets history who had a minimum of 20 starts and made at least half of his appearances in a starting role.

Jerry Koosman
  1. Jerry Koosman - 346 
  2. Jon Matlack - 199
  3. Jonathon Niese - 94
  4. Pete Schourek - 47
  5. Eric Hillman - 36

Jon Matlack
  1. Jerry Koosman - 140
  2. Jon Matlack - 82
  3. Jonathon Niese - 35
  4. Pete Schourek - 16
  5. Bill Pulsipher - 5

Jonathon Niese
  1. Jon Matlack - 3.03
  2. Jerry Koosman - 3.09
  3. Jonathon Niese - 4.06
  4. Bill Pulsipher - 4.63
  5. Pete Schourek - 4.65

Eric Hillman
  1. Jon Matlack - 1.195
  2. Jerry Koosman - 1.219
  3. Jonathon Niese - 1.360
  4. Eric Hillman - 1.422
  5. Bill Pulsipher - 1.442

Pete Schourek
  1. Jerry Koosman - 1,799
  2. Jon Matlack - 1,023
  3. Jonathon Niese - 470
  4. Pete Schourek - 199
  5. Bill Pulsipher - 101

K/BB Ratio:
Bill Pulsipher
  1. Jonathon Niese - 2.73
  2. Jon Matlack - 2.44
  3. Jerry Koosman - 2.19
  4. Eric Hilman - 2.13
  5. Bill Pulsipher - 1.80

Did you notice anything interesting about each top five list?  In each list, the top three pitchers were always Jerry Koosman, Jon Matlack and Jonathon Niese, although not necessarily in that order.  Also, when players such as Pete Schourek, Bill Pulsipher and Eric Hillman start cracking all-time top five lists for the Mets, it's fairly obvious that the Mets haven't had much success drafting, developing and calling up left-handed starters.

Say what you what about Jonathon Niese.  Say he's only a middle-of-the-rotation starter.  Say he hasn't fully realized his potential.  Say all of that, but then don't forget to say that he's also one of the best homegrown left-handed starting pitchers in team history.  And with the improvement he continues to show year after year, we may have to remove the word "left-handed" from the previous sentence before long.  Not bad for a southpaw who has yet to reach his 26th birthday.


Brian Joura said...

Here's the list for homegrown lefties for the Mets expansion mates - the Astros - in Wins:

80 - Wandy Rodriguez
33 - Joe Sambito
26 - Billy Wagner
16 - Al Osuna
15 - Jeriome Robertson

The expansion Senators came in one year earlier and here's their list:

133 - Kenny Rogers
60 - Darren Oliver
48 - Matt Harrison
43 - CJ Wilson
38 - Derek Holland

The Angels are the best of the early 60s expansion clubs. Here's their list:

165 - Chuck Finley
102 - Frank Tanana
87 - Clyde Wright
75 - Jarrod Washburn
54 - Joe Saunders

These lefties tend to pitch for multiple teams. The top two guys in Wins for all four teams played for other clubs. Matlack is tied with Wilson for 4th place all-time in Wins for a lefty in Senators/Rangers franchise history.

Ed Leyro (and Joey Beartran) said...

Looks like our expansion mates from 1961 and 1962 have had quite a bit more success than we have had in developing their left-handed starters. Thanks for the addition research. It's much appreciated and I'm sure our readers will enjoy reading about it.