New York Mets Pitcher John Maine’s Thursday Start Typical of Pitcher

On Thursday, March 25, 2010, John Maine may have taken his biggest step forward from the shoulder surgery he required 18 months ago.

According to this report, Mets manager Jerry Manuel was impressed by Maine in his third start this spring:

“He gave up a couple home runs, one early. I thought he had a good slider. But there was some life on that fastball, when starts to get all those foul balls back. I’m really excited that his arm is bouncing back. I thought today, even though you might not call that a ‘wow’ performance, I felt it was a competitive performance against a good-hitting lineup. That’s very, very serviceable for us compared to what we’ve been getting.”
Manuel said “when starts to get all those foul balls back.” If Manuel means when hitters are fouling back those fastballs, that is actually not a good sign as it shows that hitters are on his velocity, and are not fooled by the pitch. When hitters foul the ball off to the opposite side of the field (right handed hitters fouling balls off to the first base side), is when hitters are late on a fastball.

However, Maine threw five innings, allowing three hits and only the two runs from the homers.

That is all well and good, but I saw some typical Maineisms in the performance.

Maine was not in command. While he only walked two, he hit a batter and later threw a wild pitch. Command likely will not “you know… come back around,” for Maine as Manuel put it after the game.

It is not Maine’s history to have great command.

Manuel said that Maine had “some life on the fastball” and “had a good slider,” but he only struck out one Cardinal hitter. Not good for a pitcher who historically has issues with wildness.

The problem with Maine was never his arm strength (even after the surgery) or ability to have low hit performances. The biggest problem with Maine was consistently throwing strikes, hitting his spots and the propensity for allowing the big inning.

Maine has walked six batters, and also hit two in 11.1 spring innings thus far.

In allowing Pujols’ home run, Maine got behind Albert 2-0, then threw a “belt high 2-0 fastball.”

That is typical of Maine’s issues, not throwing strikes then pumping one in down the middle. With his career walk rates of 4 batters per 9 innings, and his reduced strikeout rates (8.5 per 9 in 2007, 7.8 in 2008, 6.1 in 2009), Maine can not afford to dance around the strike zone anymore.

Until he begins to strike out more hitters (only six in 11 spring innings), Maine needs to attack hitters, throwing strike one, and pitching more to contact.

If that does not happen, John Maine and the Mets are in for a long season on the hill…and in the standings.

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