Jon Niese threw 99 pitches, but only 10 were curveballs — supposedly his signature “out” pitch and what many feel is his best weapon. Though, from what we understand, the thin air in Colorado destroys the vertical break of even the best curves. I liked what I saw from Niese’s ability to handle himself in the postgame interviews, and believe he is mentally and emotionally prepared to pitch in New York. Unfortunately, he appears to be extremely vulnerable without the deuce. But, it’s likely the last time in 2010 he pitches at a mile-high altitude, so he should get back to being the MLB-average pitcher the Mets need him to be. I’m not concerned in the least.
That seems about right. I forgot all about that factor while watching Niese pitch last night, though, and I kept wondering what happened to his reliable Uncle Charlie.
Indeed, according to ESPN New York, Niese told reporters after the game, “I really didn’t have a feel for my curveball. I tried to throw it for a first-pitch strike and I just really couldn’t get it there. … It’s tough to get a good curveball going here. I left a lot of curveballs hanging in the bullpen when I really wanted to bounce it. To Barmes, I left that hanging and he hit it.”
Mystery solved, then. And that should, as Janish suggests, quiet immediate concerns about Niese. If you’ve got doubts about the effects of altitude on curveball specialists, check out the late Darryl Kile’s career in Colorado, juxtaposed with his seasons immediately before and after.