Let’s not go overboard for Jonathan Niese now

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According to the New York Post’s Joel Sherman, we have the Blue Jays, Padres, Red Sox, Rockies and Yankees all in on Mets left-hander Jonathan Niese. And it’s easy to see why teams would be interested. Niese is a 25-year-old left-hander making close to the minimum with a decent track record and pretty legitimate stuff.

The most intriguing thing about Niese is that he’s fanned 7.65 batters per nine innigs as a major leaguer. That’s a better mark than Dan Haren, James Shields, Matt Cain or Cliff Lee. CC Sabathia barely tops him at 7.68. Being that strikeout rate is pretty much the best indicator available for future success, it’s no surprise there’s quite a bit of demand for Niese.

But there’s something to be very cautious about here, too. Niese appears to suffer from Glendon Rusch disease, in that he gives up hits at a much greater rate than one would expect given his strikeout and home run rates. The major league batting average on balls in play last year was .291. Niese finished at .333. Usually when something like that happens, it gets written off as a fluke and the pitcher gets talked about as a bounce-back candidate for the next year.

It doesn’t appear to be a fluke with Niese, though. He came in at .324 in 2010. In 2009, he was at .313 in Triple-A and .317 in five major league starts. In 2008, he was at .304 in the minors and .375 in three major league starts. In 2007, he was at .340 in high-A ball.

In Niese’s case, this likely has a lot to do with a lack of fastball movement. He can get swings and misses, particularly with his breaking balls, but hitters tend to line up hit fastball pretty well. It’s not something that figures to change, so Niese may well be one of those guys who is never quite as good as his peripherals.

That doesn’t mean he’s not worth having; Niese is still a perfectly acceptable No. 4 starter as is. But the price will be significant, and teams expecting him to break through will probably be disappointed.

Angels name Brad Ausmus new manager

Brad Ausmus
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Former MLB player and manager Brad Ausmus will manage the Angels in 2019, the team announced Sunday. His contract will extend through the 2021 season, though it’s not clear whether a club option exists for 2022. A formal press conference will be held on Monday at 1:00 PM PDT to introduce the new skipper.

Angels general manager Billy Eppler gave a statement following Ausmus’ hiring:

Ausmus, 49, was also considered for a managerial role with the Reds prior to their hiring of David Bell on Sunday. He’ll replace longtime manager Mike Scioscia, who finished his 19th and final campaign with the club on the last day of the 2018 season.

A former catcher and three-time Gold Glove Award winner, Ausmus capped his 18-year MLB playing career in 2010. He managed the Tigers from 2014 to 2017, during which he guided the club to a 314-332 record and a postseason berth in 2014. After the Tigers declined to offer the skipper an extension in 2018, he was hired as a special assistant to the Angels’ general manager, and remained in that role for the duration of the regular season.