- Almost certainly, the injury paves the way for Jonathon Niese, one of the organization's most promising pitching prospects, to get a shot in New York. There are ample reasons for optimism in Niese that go beyond his famous birthday of Oct. 27, 1986 -- that's right, a pitcher could be born, grow up, get drafted and develop a major-league ready repertoire in the time since the Mets last won a World Series.
As documented by Toby Hyde, who is to Mets' Minor League prospects what Sheila Bair was to credit default swaps (check your 401(k) for details), Niese has been dominating lately. In his past eight starts, Niese has pitched to a 0.96 ERA, averaged better than seven innings per outing, with 46 strikeouts and just 13 walks. In short, he's made every offense he's faced look like the current New York Mets.
In other words, it wasn't that the 2009 plan to rely on starting-pitching depth to carry the day in case of injury was flawed. It was relying on Tim Redding, Livan Hernandez and Freddy Garcia to be that depth. When the Red Sox did so using Brad Penny and John Smoltz, but also Justin Masterson and Clay Buchholz, the results were far different.
So, when John Maine returns, a rotation of Johan Santana/Perez/Pelfrey/Maine/Niese is the way to go. The Mets are nine games out, and it is time to deal Livan Hernandez. I write these words unhappily, since there is a tremendous pleasure as a baseball fan in watching Hernandez work, and I am particularly enamored with his 65 mile per hour curveball.
We've now seen this act from Hernandez for two straight seasons. Last year with the Twins he went 6-1 with a 3.90 ERA in his first nine starts, only to struggle terribly afterward while Francisco Liriano was dominating in the International League. This year the same thing -- 5-1 with a 3.88 ERA in his first 11 starts, followed by lots of batting practice -- except with Niese doing the Triple-A dominating.
Will another team really get sucked into this trap one more time?