John Maine came onto the scene in Flushing back in 2006 when he was a midseason call-up. Then, a July 3 shutout gave him a name in Flushing. In 2007 he was brilliant, relatively, but in 2008 he was dealing with rotator cuff issues that landed him on the DL and by the end of the year he had to have surgery to remove a bone spur in his shoulder.
Ever since 2008 the Mets have been fighting to get him back to his late 2006-07 form. By the end of last season it looked like they weren’t far from that. A bad start against the Marlins and a terrible performance in Colorado and the Mets seemed one more bad start away from scraping the entire project.
Only he didn’t have a bad performance last night, he had a mediocre one. So is he one more bad start away from being removed from the rotation? Well that depends, did he show real improvement?
Well he kept the damage to a minimum allowing only three runs over five innings. The problem was that he was in trouble every inning, allowing at least two base runners an inning. He also walked four batters. The thing he was looking to improve upon the most though was his fastball. So it’s improvement was important.
“His fastball was just better,” catcher Rod Barajas said. “It had more pop, more life and he was more accurate with it.”
Well, cliches aside, he threw the pitch 84 times last night. If nothing else that shows that he wasn’t afraid to throw it. The problem is the fastball he started with was not the same as the one he started with. Early in the game he was sitting between 91 and 92 mph with it, but by the middle of the game he couldn’t get over 90 mph with it and in the end it settled down in the 86-89 mph range.
For a guy who said he wanted to throw 150 pitches last night, he certainly had an issue with stamina. It’s also a far cry from 2007 when he sat in the 90-95 mph range. For a pitcher who has lost so much off his fastball it will be very dangerous for him to continue to try to live on the pitch.
The positive thing to take away from him throwing his fastball 84 times last night is that in his three previous starts he had only been throwing it slightly more than 50 percent of the time. Somehow though he’s going to need to find a middle ground where he is comfortable throwing his fastball, but he needs to mix in his off-speed stuff as well.
In 2007 he threw the fastball 66.4 percent of the time and his slider 21.4 percent and the changeup 12.2 percent of the time. So far he has either thrown his fastball either not nearly enough or too much. He probably pitched good enough to get one more start, but instead of reestablishing his fastball in his next start he needs to get back to the point where he trusts all of his pitches and mixes them together effectively.
His motto for this week was that he was going to die by that fastball, but he needs to realize that it is about more than that. Trusting his entire repertoire should be his motto for his next start. He needs to get back to being a complete pitcher. Having one good start could really help him here in buying himself more time to get comfortable.