9/21/15 Game Preview: Miller vs. Niese, Wright and Markakis sit

The Mets (84-65) take on the Atlanta Braves (60-90) at 7:10 tonight at Citi Field. Shelby Miller (3.00 ERA, 3.33 FIP, 1.24 WHIP, 186 innings over 30 starts) opposes Jon Niese (4.31 ERA, 4.48 FIP, 1.41 WHIP, 167 IP over 28 starts). The Mets last faced Miller a week and a half ago and scored 3 runs on 7 hits with 2 walks and 5 strikeouts in 6 innings. The Mets won that game 7-2 behind Bartolo Colon. Niese faced the Braves in his last start, and was strong over 6 innings, allowing 3 runs (2 earned) on 8 hits while walking 1 and striking out 3.

Lineups:

[Newsday]

Braves:

  1. Michael Bourn, RF (L)
  2. Daniel Castro, 2B (R)
  3. Freddie Freeman, 1B (L)
  4. Adonis Garcia, 3B (R)
  5. A.J. Pierzynski, C (L)
  6. Nick Swisher, LF (S)
  7. Cameron Maybin, CF (R)
  8. Andrelton Simmons, SS (R)
  9. Shelby Miller, P (R)

Mets:

  1. Curtis Granderson, RF (L)
  2. Daniel Murphy, 3B (L)
  3. Yoenis Cespedes, CF (R)
  4. Lucas Duda, 1B (L)
  5. Travis d’Arnaud, C (R)
  6. Kelly Johnson, 2B (L)
  7. Michael Conforto, LF (L)
  8. Wilmer Flores, SS (R)
  9. Jon Niese, P (L)

David Wright gets the day off, and after leaving with a collarbone injury yesterday, Juan Uribe does not take his place. Therefore, Daniel Murphy slides to 3rd today with Kelly Johnson playing 2nd.

Nick Markakis is out of the Braves lineup for the 2nd straight day. There is no known injury as of this moment; perhaps Freddi Gonzalez simply wants to give him a 2nd straight day off against a lefty.

UPDATE: According to the Mets broadcast, Nick Markakis is out due to a strained neck and Christian Bethancourt is out due to a sprained thumb.

Over his last 6 starts (34 IP), Shelby Miller has struggled to a 5.56 ERA (3.71 FIP and 1.62 WHIP). Miller had a decent start against the Mets, but a bad one against the Blue Jays in his one start since he last saw the Mets. Miller is still winless since May 17th, yet another indication that wins is a dated statistic (as Brian Kenny of MLB Network put it, when guys were pitching 9 innings every start, then maybe a pitcher’s wins was a useful statistic). Miller’s numbers aren’t quite as strong on the road, with a 3.43 ERA and 3.71 FIP in those starts.

Jon Niese looks to improve on a decent outing his last time out, allowing 3 runs (2 earned) over 6 innings of work. He’s facing the same team this time out. Niese has a 15% strikeout rate this season with a 7.1% walk rate and a .301 BABIP. He is mostly in line with his career averages, at 18%, 6.9%, and .310 respectively, but the big difference is the strikeout rate, which is going down. Niese also has completely given back his improved walk rate from last season (5.6%).

It has also been a tale of two seasons for Niese. Through his August 4th start, he had a 15.5% K%, a 6.7% BB%, and a .293 BABIP. Since, Niese is at 12.7%, 10%, and .343 respectively. While his strikeout rate has gone down and his walk rate up, Niese has also experienced a bit of bad luck, with a 50 point jump in BABIP. While this should stabilize over time, Niese is certainly not the pitcher he was.

Niese also has a 3.23 ERA in 21 career starts against the Braves (1.44 WHIP). In 3 starts against them this season, he has a 2.04 ERA and 1.47 WHIP in 17 2/3 IP.

Though Ruben Tejada has gotten the bulk of the starts behind Jon Niese, Wilmer Flores starts today. Tejada often starts behind Niese because he generates a lot of ground balls and Tejada is the better defender than Wilmer Flores. By advanced fielding metrics, though, Tejada doesn’t look nearly as good. Tejada has a -14.1 UZR/150, copared to Flores’s -1.2. Similarly, Tejada is at -17 DRS while Flores is at -9. Fielding metrics do take a while to stabalize, so they should certainly be taken with a grain of salt, but it is worth noting when the metrics agree.

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