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2007 Rotation Preview: John Maine

Mike SteffanosWednesday, January 3, 2007
By Mike Steffanos

John Maine came to the Mets as a throw in on the Kris Benson for Jorge Julio deal last January. Maine was originally a sixth round pick of the Baltimore Orioles. It was thought at the time that a mediocre final collegiate season may have dropped him somewhat from the higher rounds of the draft. Maine soon forced himself onto the top prospect lists by absolutely dominating at the A and AA levels. In 2003, his second year in the Orioles system, Maine led all of the minor leagues in strikeouts with 185 in less than 150 combined innings. Although he struggled with his mechanics at times, and lacked consistent complementary pitches to his fastball, he had very good control and didn't give up many hits.

The next season, 2004, saw Maine rushed through the AA level after only five starts and pushed up to AAA-Ottawa. It was there that he struggled for the first time, as the occasional lapses with his mechanics and his inconsistent off-speed pitches caught up with him. He began the 2005 season in Ottawa, and continued to struggle. The Orioles were desperate for pitching and brought him up anyway. He got beat up pretty bad in 40 major league innings. It was at this point that his stock as a prospect plunged, and the former phenom was traded to the Mets that winter.

Maine began the 2006 season in AAA-Norfolk and did fairy well. As the Mets starting pitchers began to drop like flies, Maine was called up on May 2 to pitch a game against the Nationals. He wasn't bad, but didn't throw a curve ball the entire 5.1 innings he pitched. After the game Maine admitted that he had injured a finger and wasn't able to throw a breaking pitch. Another stint in the minors followed after he returned to action, and then Maine was called up for good in early July. A 26-inning scoreless streak highlighted his first month back, including a complete-game shutout of the Astros. Here are his numbers for 2006 at all levels:

2006 Major and Minor League Stats -- John Maine
Team Starts Innings Hits/9 K/9 BB/9 HR/9 ERA AVG
St. Lucie (A) 1 5 5.4 12.6 3.6 0.0 0.00 .167
Norfolk (AAA) 10 56.2 8.7 7.6 3.2 0.3 3.49 .253
Minor League Totals 11 61.2 8.5 8.0 3.2 0.3 3.21 .247
Mets 15 90 6.9 7.1 3.3 1.5 3.60 .212
Post-Season 3 13.2 6.6 8.6 7.2 0.7 2.63 .204

There is good and bad looking at Maine's major league numbers. The hit rate and batting average against were outstanding, and the strikeout and walk numbers were good. The home run number was terrible, though, and reflected continued battles with consistency after his promotion. A familiar sight last season was Maine cruising through three or four innings where they couldn't touch him, and then it was almost as if someone flipped a switch as he lost command of his pitches. There were times he was very effective with his changeup and slider, but he'd make mistakes with his changeup in particular, and many of those mistakes found the seats.

Maine has a very good sinking action on his fastball. Although he has good results at times pitching up in the zone with his deceptive motion and movement on the ball, there is no reason why he can't cut the home runs to a reasonable level. As mentioned above, many of those dingers came on badly located off-speed pitches. His changeup was often his most effective secondary pitch, yet the NL batted .280 against it, which shows how mistake-prone he was throwing it. Some of those mistakes are attributable to an inability to keep his delivery solid deep into games.

After abandoning a large-breaking curve ball that he had trouble throwing for strikes early in the year, Maine showed a promising slider that he used to good effect when he got it over. The league batted only .167 against that pitch.

The conventional wisdom on Maine is that his tendency to loose his mechanics and his inconsistent off-speed stuff will limit him to being a bottom of the rotation starter or a reliever. I think Maine has made good progress with Rick Peterson, and has the promise to better that and become a solid third starter for the Mets. His fastball, particularly with the deceptive motion and movement, is good enough. He's also shown that he is not intimidated by the big stage, which is important. How far John Maine goes will be determined by his ability to master the mechanics of his delivery. Accomplishing that will help him to polish the off-speed stuff and become a dependable starting pitcher.

Last season Maine threw fastballs 70% of the time. He'll need to mix the other stuff in more, which will come if he develops more confidence in his secondary pitches. At times his pitch count runs up as batters foul off his fastball repeatedly. Developing consistency with the changeup and slider more can help him to finish off hitters faster. This is important, because with a simple improvement from being a 5-inning pitcher to a 6-inning pitcher next season, he can help the team immeasurably.

I find attempting to forecast Maine's 2007 season difficult because it's hard to guess how much progress he will make in finding that consistency. I don't expect him to match the very low .212 batting average that the league hit against him last year, so it's crucial that he cuts down on the number of homeruns he allows. What makes me optimistic about him is that he seems to be one of those guys who work very well with Rick Peterson, and as mentioned above he is not intimidated. I don't foresee any miraculous changes, but rather I think he will continue to improve and refine his game. I'm looking for double-figures in wins and for Maine to solidify his claim to a rotation slot with this team.

2007 Starting Rotation Previews:
Orlando Hernandez
Phil Humber
John Maine (This Article)
Mike Pelfrey
Oliver Perez
Alay Soler
Jason Vargas
Dave Williams
Rotation Preview Conclusions

2007 Pitching Previews: Summing It All Up

About Mike: I was the original writer on this web site, actually its only writer for the first 15 months of existence. Although I am grateful for the excellent contributions of my fellow writers here, I have no plans of stepping back into strictly an editorial role. I started this thing in the first place because I love to write and I love the Mets, and blogging here keeps me somewhat sane. If you haven't had enough already, more bio info can be found here.

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Comments (11)

Personally I hope to see more of those high fastballs from Maine, the ones that resulted in strikeouts so often during the scoreless streak. I got the idea that Maine over-reacted to a few hard hit balls and started going away from his strengths. I'm hoping that was the sort of mistake that one can characterize as a rookie mistake, and that a winter watching the tapes will help him figure out what he was doing right.

He's a smart fellow, not lacking in guts. I have hopes for him.

I'm greatly enjoying this series of posts, btw. Thanks, Mike!

Mike...regarding your 2007 projection for Maine all I have to say is "FROM YOUR LIPS TO GODS EARS"....Hope it comes true..tks good article

Mike, I was going to simply write and tell you how much I was enjoying this series of previews, and I see others have beaten me to it! Keep up the great work. I enjoy your writing.


John Maine is quickly becoming one of my favorite Mets. All the flaws you mentioned are very real, but they're all very correctible. No pressure or anything on him, but I see extremely good things for him (and us) in '07. It's astounding to me that he's pitched only 90 regular-season innings as a Met.

Man this is good stuff. We are going to be like scouts filled with info in our little gm armchairs with other fans. Thanks Mike... I like Maine, he fits in with the team. He gives me the feeling we got a shot to win when he pitches and yet I never see other teams asking about him in trades(or did I miss that?)

dd - I didn't really word that correctly. Even though he gives up his share of fly balls I like the high fastball, too. He got burned a lot with bad off-speed stuff, and when they did hit his fastball it was because of bad location. I like him, too, and really believe he will evolve into a solid #3 starter.
pal88 - I hope God is listening, too.
C Dubb - Thanks for the kind words. It's always good to hear that I've written something that people enjoy.
NostraDennis - I think they're all correctable, too. I think if he stays healthy Maine may be our best overall pitcher in 2007.
Rev - It would be silly for the Mets to talk about trading him when they need starters. I honestly don't know what he would be worth to other Gems.

Mike, I must commend you on the outstanding job you are doing. I wish to make a correction here to your statement about Maine being a throw-in in the Benson trade. I've seen this written everywhere and even a year later, this error is continuing. I know the truth was only stated once, but just the same, if you can find Omar's interview with Mike and the Mad Dog from last spring, he states that Maine was the main player coming back for Benson. I know this goes against all logic and conventional wisdom, but he did say it and when you look at the fact that Maine is still on the Mets and Julio is long gone, it seems to have rung true.

cver - I really was just talking about the perception of the deal. Omar said all along that the Mets liked Maine, and saw him as a potential mid-rotation starter. To me the throw-in thing isn't important, anyway. I wonder if there is ever really any such thing as just a throw-in in the minds of teams making deals.

John Maine exudes a great confidence when he takes the mound. He has command of the strike zone and seems to know how to keep balls in play giving his defense a chance to field them. He also seems to know how and when to rear back and get a strikeout. He is a cerebral athlete that keeps his composure well. But best of all Mike, he plays Sudoku when he is not pitching. I know personally that playing Sudoku regularly has really made me a calmer individual and has improved my work performance and poise. It may sound silly, but Maine seems committed to a Maddux-like near emotionless approach to pitching; and it will only serve to benefit his career and maximize his talent.

Salman - It's an interesting contrast in both pitching style and personality between Maine and Perez, isn't it?

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