By Mike Steffanos
Mets 5 - Diamondbacks 3
Jae Seo's heir as the Mets pitcher whose name lends itself to excruciatingly bad headline puns won his fifth game of the season on a night when he forgot to bring his best stuff to the ballpark with him. After the game, John Maine admitted to throwing only two off-speed pitches for strikes, and one of them was smoked for a double. I'm looking forward to another spate of stories from hardcore numbers crunchers about how lucky Maine has been this year and how it won't continue.
In fairness, Maine was indeed lucky to be pitching against an extremely young, inexperienced lineup last night. If Maine was pitching against a team that was familiar with him, they would have been sitting on his fastball and managing more than a run off him. On the other hand, his command with the fastball was outstanding all night, and that allowed him to pitch out of some rough spots. He's definitely grown as a pitcher from the sometimes quite befuddled young man we saw out there when he struggled last year.
One of my favorite little hobbies after a John Maine win is to read what Rotoworld has to say about him. It's always something along the lines that he pitched well that game but only Mets fans expect him to continue. There was some of that after this win, but they seem to be softening their stance a little:
Maine looked excellent once again, striking out seven and walking one while yielding six hits. The right-hander has a superb 1.37 ERA through six starts, but his command has only been average and he's allowed just 24 hits in 39 1/3 innings. More hits will start to drop in against Maine and his ERA will rise as a result, but it's still likely that he'll beat preseason estimates by a good margin.
I agree and disagree with the above. We don't need to crunch formulas to understand that Maine is unlikely to continue pitching to a sub-2 ERA. Maine's insanely low hit rate of 5.5 per nine innings will undoubtedly rise.
Where we part company is the "his command has only been average" statement. Anyone who has watched Maine pitch knows too well that he can lose the strike zone at times, but these lapses -- while certainly something he needs to improve on -- are not indicative of his command. His success this young season has been predicated on his ability to spot his fastball consistently, and last night this ability bailed him out. Moreover, he's done a better job of limiting those lapses where he loses the plate. Over his last three starts, he has walked only 6 in 20-2/3 innings of work. If he continues to improve in this regard, it will at least somewhat offset the rise in hits allowed.
But now even Rotoworld admits "it's still likely that he'll beat preseason estimates by a good margin". It seems to me that this is their first step on the road to recovery.
Seriously, though, my friend Dan and the rest of my regular readers understand that I respect statistical analysis, but part company with those that only believe in numbers. I've been asked several times what I think about some article predicting a dire crash for John Maine when his "luck" runs out, some of these even written by pundits who purport to be Mets fans. The truth is that I don't really think about them. The work on the new house has limited my reading time, and I prefer to spend what I have left reading quality.
John Maine will have his ups and downs this year, but I've seen enough to be confident that he will be a solid number three. Beyond that, it wouldn't surprise me at all if he becomes a little better than that. He's young, he's smart, and he's tough. He's shown that he's willing to work on his game. While I doubt he will win a Cy Young someday, I continue to be impressed by John Maine. Even the endless bad headline puns are endurable. The state of Maine is good.
|John Maine (5-0)|
|TOTAL (6 Games)||39.1||6||6||24||37||18||2||1.37||1.07||6-0|