The Mets won a crucial game over the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday evening, thanks in large part to an outstanding performance by rookie Robert Gsellman and five other relievers. Making his big league debut, Gsellman tossed 3.2 scoreless innings despite having to wriggle out of a jam right from his very first pitch.
What makes this outcome so spectacular is the series of quite frankly idiotic decisions made by the Mets leading up to this game. As much as Gsellman and the bullpen deserve praise for their performance, the Mets’ decision makers, whether it be Sandy Alderson or Terry Collins, deserve that same level of scorn. Quite simply, there was no reason for Jon Niese to have been starting Tuesday night’s game.
Let’s articulate just how terrible Niese has been all season. Owner of a 4.91 ERA, bottom 15 in MLB if he had the innings to qualify, and a 5.36 FIP in Pittsburgh, Niese has somehow reached a whole new stratosphere of suck since coming to the Mets less than a month ago. The damage: 10.2 innings, 11 runs on 12 hits and 7 walks. That’s a 9.28 ERA. By some miracle, he’s struck out 12 batters. The way Niese has pitched, those 12 guys should probably go find another line of work.
To any rational mind, all of this would clearly be a good reason not to start Jon Niese. If you’re in a pennant race, or perhaps more accurately if you’re pretending that you’re in a playoff race, you don’t start terrible pitchers. This should be logic 101.
But then, yesterday morning, came this nugget from the beat writers:
Terry Collins says Jon Niese's left knee remains an issue. Robert Gsellman would step in if Niese has to depart... https://t.co/vv33xGZdrw— Adam Rubin (@AdamRubinESPN) August 23, 2016
So let me get this straight. Jon Niese is not only pitching horribly but also has a bum knee that may knock him out of the game early. The backup plan is a prospect who has never a) stepped on a Major League Baseball mound or b) worked as a relief pitcher in his professional career outside of piggybacking some games in Rookie Ball. Should Niese’s knee act up, the Mets are going to throw Gsellman to the wolves for his big league debut in an unfamiliar role, even though they could just start him and allow him to follow his familiar routine, all while probably getting a better start out of it to boot.
How does any of this make sense? If Niese’s knee is that much of an issue, why is he starting in the first place? And what is it that magically makes 4 batters, 8 batters, 12 batters into the game a better time for Gsellman to debut than at the beginning of the game? Are we banking on the Cardinals blowing Niese out of the yard just so Gsellman can get mop-up work for his big league debut? If that’s the answer, it’s insane.
There seems to be no logical thought process here whatsoever, beyond the zombie-like approach of “MUST START VETERANS”.
Credit to Robert Gsellman for showing some big league poise on the mound last night. He entered into a nightmare situation to make his big league debut, in a role he’s not accustomed to, and handled it incredibly well by closing out the inning and limiting Niese’s disaster inning to three runs. Kudos to him because the Mets wouldn’t have won without his work.
Despite winning the game, the Mets did a piss poor job of setting Gsellman up for success and setting the team up to win. Pitching a bad pitcher is a terrible strategy. Pitching a bad AND injured pitcher might be the height of stupidity. If you’re that worried about Jon Niese’s performance and his knee that you need Gsellman in the bullpen as a backup plan, maybe Jon Niese isn’t the right option to be starting your baseball game.