Friday, January 19, 2007

The Crystal Ball: John Maine

Willie Randolph is stating that John Maine is not assured a spot in the Mets rotation this year. There's a good reason for that.

Oh, there has been a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth since the O’s threw this guy into the Jorge Julio – Kris Benson trade with the Mets. How could we let him go? He had a 3.60 ERA last year! He won games in the postseason! The Orioles have let a talented young arm get away!

Don’t you believe it.

Maine’s success was a product of the team around him, the park he played in and the league that he faced.

Maine’s strikeout totals were reduced every time he went up a level in the minors. A couple of stints in the majors showed he had real problems getting people out in the Majors and was looking more and more like AAA+ type guy who may develop into a spot starter/relief guy down the road. His success with the Mets notwithstanding, I still think that’s what he projects to.

He had a WHIP of 1.13 last year. He has never bested 1.32 before in AAA or higher during his career, not even with the Mets in Norfolk last year. His K/BB ratio is a pretty average 2.15. He is an extreme flyball pitcher (nearly 50% rate of flyballs). Eventually, some of this will catch up to his ERA. He is quite dependent on his outfielders converting those flyballs into outs and some luck may also have been involved.

Let’s not forget that he is pitching in the NL now. Those pitchers help the NL ERA to be about a half run lower than the AL. So if the O’s had kept him, odds are he would not have fared so well against AL lineups and in Camden Yards.

So he either had a quantum leap between Norfolk and New York (possible, it does happen on occasion) or everything went right for him last year and that is probably the best he could’ve done. Which do you think makes more sense?

The best case scenario is that John Maine was a poor fit for Baltimore and that he will continue to be a decent pitcher at Shea, pitching in the NL. I’d look for a bit of a regression this year though. Even with Benson’s disappointing performance, I don’t think the trade was a bad one at all.

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