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More Positive Signs

Mike SteffanosThursday, June 5, 2008
By Mike Steffanos

Game 58: Mets 5 - Giants 3

Nine days ago the Mets followed up a dismal road trip against Atlanta and Colorado by dropping the opener of their home series vs. the Marlins. Their record dropped to 23-26, 6.5 games behind Florida in fourth place. As a matter of fact, they were much closer to the last place Nats (2.5 games). It seemed only a matter of time before Randolph was fired, and I wondered if we were at the start of a 2002-like collapse to the season. (And by the way, that Mets team was actually 26-23 and in first place after the same number of games, en route to a 75-86 last place finish.)

While only a fool would believe that this club still doesn't have some issues, in the last nine days they have gone 7-2, had some nice come from behind wins, and saw Pedro Martinez return to the rotation. Especially when you consider how dark everything looked a few days ago, it's impossible not to feel a return of some optimism -- and that's always a welcome thing.

Of course, if the Mets are going to be a serious contender for anything this season, it will require the type of starting pitching depth that allows a team to string some wins together.

While he hasn't been setting the world on fire, Johan Santana is more than holding his own. The Mets are 9-3 in his 12 starts.

If Pedro can maintain that fastball in the high 80s, low 90s range and get the control back on his off-speed stuff, there is no reason why he couldn't win a good percentage of his starts.

Still, it takes at least 3 very solid starters to get the job done. Thankfully, John Maine continues to look like he meets that description.

Although it's a concern that high pitch counts continually keep Maine from going really deep into games, he has given the Mets at least 6 innings in 9 of his 12 starts. Contrast that with Oliver Perez (5 of 12) and Mike Pelfrey (4 of 10), and we could see Maine's value as a starter.

On the other hand, Maine has only pitched more than 6 innings twice -- 6-2/3 against Washington in April and 8-1/3 in Los Angeles last month. If Maine could somehow figure out how to cut down on the foul balls that lead to so many long at bats, he could be one of the better pitchers in the league. While walks were a contributing factor in April (5.5/9IP in 5 starts), they have become much less of a factor in 7 May and June starts (3.0/9IP).

The offense is still up and down, but they've been scoring enough to give the team a chance to win. Barring a significant trade, that seems to me all you could ask for this year, unless Carlos Delgado stumbles into the Fountain of Youth and rediscovers his bat speed.

View John Maine's Full Season Stats

Box Score

Comments (5)

Regarding Santana, Twins fan and inveterate blogger Aaron Gleeman points out that Santana has started out slow most years, turning it on in the second half. I know from my own recollection that has been true the past two years.

I also agree with DD about Santana- he has turned it on after the all star break

2004: 7-6, 3.78 ERA, 123.2 IP, 101 H, 136 K Pre All-Star
13-0, 1.21 ERA, 104.1 IP, 55 H, 129 K Post All-Star

2005: 7-5, 3.98 ERA 124.1 IP, 105 H, 143K Pre All Star
9-2, 1.59 ERA, 107.1 IP, 75 H, 95 K Post All Star

2006:9-5, 2.95 ERA, 131 IP, 107 H, 138 K Pre All-Star
10-1, 2.54 ERA, 102.2 IP, 79 H, 107 K Post All-Star

2007:10-6, 2.75 ERA, 121 IP, 95 H, 125 K Pre All-Star
5-7, 4.04 ERA, 98 IP, 88 H, 110K Post All-Star

Other than 2007, he's been lights out in the second half. The major reason, overall, seems to be that he just cuts down on giving up hits. And since last year was a wash for the Twins anyways, I think we should (hopefully) disregard his poor outing in 2007.

The good news as well for the Mets is that Reyes seems to have finally decided to wake up, and it's really helped the lineup. The top of the order- Reyes, Castillo, Wright, Beltran, and Church, are all hitting right now. Good stuff.

The Mets will probably make a trade or two; Delgado and Heilman need to go to start off with (and Heilman can probably bring something in), while they have a still good pool of minor league talent to draw from for trades.

I agree that he is better after the break. I wasn't making a point that he was bad now, anyway. On the other hand, there is no doubt that his velocity isn't what it was, anyway. He'll need to learn to get it done a different way. Pedro could help there.

Mike - You're right. The way opposing hitters chew up Maine's arm so quickly is alarming. His first inning pitch count the other day was only slightly better than Joba the Hutt's first frame earlier in the week.

I don't know, though, whether it's within the control of any pitcher to stop throwing foul balls. Seems to me most fouls are good pitches that can't be hit fair, and are staved off by the batter as a last resort. I'm hoping someone better versed in the inner workings of a pitcher's strategy can either confirm or rebut this. The closest I ever came to seeing a major league pitch from a batter's box was being struck out (often) by Frank Viola in East Meadow Little League.

I also think that the Mets should consider letting Maine pitch to 120 pitches, rather than 100. That way he'd have more leeway with the countless foul balls he gives up (and possibly even cut down on them, knowing he's got more of a pitch count cushion). I think that pitchers could probably afford that much, at least. And if they want to take some extra precautions, the Mets could shorten his pitch workouts in between starts.

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