This edition of He Won’t Be Missed is particularly sad to write. I was a big John Maine supporter when he first arrived in Queens and he provided some great outings and memorable moments while wearing a Mets uniform. However, as time wore on, he became injury prone and ineffective, leading to him being non-tendered this off season.
The Mets acquired John Maine prior to the 2006 season in exchange for Kris Benson. New York also received Jorge Julio in that deal, but Maine would prove to be the far more valuable piece. He pitched well in 2006 during the regular season (3.60 ERA-although his xFIP was 4.54-1.133 WHIP and 7.1 K/9) and in the playoffs, particularly when he shutout the Cardinals for 5 1/3 innings in a must win game six of the NLCS. In his first full season in Queens in 2007, Maine turned in a 15-10 record, 3.91 ERA (4.32 xFIP), 1.272 WHIP, 8.5 K/9 and 2.4 K/BB. His shining moment came in game 161 of that season, another must win scenario, where he retired the first 23 batters before allowing an infield single to Paul Hoover. Maine struck out 14 batters that day and seemed destined to be a fixture in the Mets rotation, but the best laid plans of Mets and Maine often go awry.
2008 wasn’t that bad for Maine. He still produced a 4.18 ERA (4.45 xFIP), 1.350 WHIP and 7.8 K/9. However, it was this year that Maine first caught the injury bug, making two trips to the disabled list down the stretch. Maine pitched well during periods of 2009, but again made multiple trips to the DL. After a rocky start to 2010, Maine finally looked like he was putting it together in May. However, on May 20th, then manager Jerry Manuel removed the right hander from a game against the Nationals after just five pitches. Maine had arthroscopic surgery on his shoulder, ending his season as well as his time with the Amazins.
So what happened John? Obviously injuries occurred, but injuries alone were not the reason that Maine is looking for employment elsewhere. For one thing, Maine’s walk rate has escalated since 2006, when it was a career low 3.3 BB/9. Since then, it rose to 3.5 in 2007, 4.3 in 2008, dipped to 4.2 in 2009 but jumped to 5.7 in 2010. Bear in mind that he only pitched 39 2/3 innings last season, but the trend is still alarming. Last year, Maine threw just 45.5% of pitches inside the strike zone, by far the lowest percentage of his career and below his career average of 50.9%. Furthermore, the percentage of pitches that batters made contact with when they swung at pitches outside the strike zone was 71.4% in 2010, well above his career average of 60.1%. Opponents were registering more hits off of Maine, but they were also fouling off more pitches, driving up his pitch count, leading to either a walk or a base hit. As a result, Maine lasted an average of just 4.4 innings pitched per game started, too low to an effective member of the starting rotation.
When Maine did get hit, he got hit hard. Opponents slugged .506 against him with eight long balls, five of which were at home in spacious Citi Field. His ground ball percentage was also just 26.5, a number that has been trending downward since 2008. To make matters worse, the average velocity on his fastball dipped to 88.7 MPH.
The silver lining for Maine is that some of last year’s numbers could be attributed to luck and injury, given the small sample size. In fact, maybe I should have titled this post “He Won’t Be Missed In The Rotation” since Maine could be effective out of the bullpen, given his high strikeout rate. Unfortunately, given his history of injuries, it seems unlikely the Mets would ever bring him back and that he will have to make a living elsewhere.