Jon Niese pitched his best game of the season, and what's particularly interesting is that he has an xFIP of 4.27 and an ERA of 3.10. That reflects the fact that 33.3 percent of the balls hit off Niese have been flyballs, but only one has left the park for a homer. The home-run rate figures to accelerate, according to baseball's overall numbers, if that flyball percentage stays the same.
Last night, however, after a memorable second inning in which both Jeff Francoeur (on Raul Ibanez) and Jason Bay (on Shane Victorino) made nice catches at the Citizens Bank Park Wall, Niese recorded 12 straight outs from the third through the sixth, and only two of those came on flyballs.
Niese also has a very high strand rate, as he has been able to leave 79.4 percent of runners on base. That number figures to drop toward the average of about 70 percent. Although, if Niese continues to allow fewer baserunners, as was the case last night, then that will loom less.
One key: Niese and the Mets were pleased with his ability to throw his curveball for strikes to righty batters. Bob Klapisch wrote in more detail about Niese.
--Mike Pelfrey vs. Roy Halladay today should be fun. As an innocent, unaligned bystander, I love watching Halladay work. He's probably my favorite non-New York pitcher to see, as long as Pedro Martinez remains unemployed. And of course, Pedro will probably be Halladay's teammate in July.
--Derek Jeter led the Yankees over the White Sox last night. Looove Ozzie Guillen's quote on Jeter that closes out the story.
Jeter's off to an interesting start in this, his free-agent year. His on-base percentage is down 52 points, and his slugging percentage is up 56 points. That is the general trend of players as they get older.
A look at the Yankees offense in general, meanwhile, shows how much pitching has driven their early success. Mark Teixeira and Nick Johnson have been dreadful at the plate, Curtis Granderson has plummeted after his hot start and Alex Rodriguez is nowhere close to his career norms. Only Jeter, Robinson Cano, Brett Gardner and the ailing Jorge Posada are producing at optimal levels.
--Speaking of pitching, Javier Vazquez goes today. If he pitches poorly again, I might have to leave my radio on "'80s on 8" when I return to New York. I'm not sure if I'll be able to handle the hating.
--Austin Jackson shined in Detroit. Please don't tell my competition, but I'm writing about Jackson's early success for my Sunday Insider tomorrow.
--Have a great day.