Although Tom Petty wrote his classic song, ‘The Waiting (is the hardest part)’ over 20 years ago, this songs rings true today. Am I the only one tired of waiting for John Maine to develop into what we all expected?
He came onto the scene in 2006 and showed promise, potential and a bright future. Now 3 years removed from his debut he is still labeled as one who has promise, potential and a bright future. Will this ever be reached?
Very few pitchers burst onto the scene and have an impact their rookie year. Our own Doc Gooden was an exception. Others that come to mind are Fernando Valenzuela in 81 and Mark ‘The Bird’ Fidrych in 76. But most pitchers, even the great ones, take a few seasons to develop. Tom Seaver was spectacular in his rookie year but only became better, winning the Cy Young Award in his 3rd season. Others like Curt Schilling take even longer. Schilling spent his 20’s struggling with mediocrity. It was not until his 30’s when he ‘learned’ how to pitch and became one of the best big game pitchers in the majors. His post-season winning percentage of .846 (11-2) is the highest in history of any pitcher with at least 10 decisions.
It takes time to learn the game and learn the hitters. One has to become a ‘pitcher’ and not a ‘thrower.’ However, John Maine has shown none of this. And he needs to!
His debut with us came on May 2, 2006 against Washington where he allowed 4 ER on 6 hits in 5 1/3 IP. Four days later he was placed on the DL with inflammation in his right middle finger.
Overall, 2006 was a great year for John. He went on to establish the Mets rookie record of 26 scoreless innings. He made 15 starts and compiled a strong 3.60 ERA, averaging 7.1 K’s for every 9 innings. He also was our surprise starter in Game One of the LDS vs. the Dodgers. He displayed that potential and promise. Mets fan saw him as a legitimate #2. However, over time, John has not really improved. He is still a thrower, not a pitcher. He has not grown at all in 4 seasons and is no more of a force now then he was as a rookie, maybe even less. Not only have his numbers not improved but they have actually gotten worse.
His ERA has risen each year from 3.60 to 3.91 to 4.18 to 4.43. His K/9 has decreased from 7.1 in 06 to 6.1 in 09. He is walking more batters now then he used to, going from 3.3 in his rookie season to 4.2 last year. He also needs to learn how to conserve pitches. One of his big shortcomings has been his inability to pitch deep into games. Lets face it. We all know that when he starts a game our bullpen will get a lot of work that day. Last year, he pitched into the 7th inning only twice. In 08, just 5 times. And even in 2007, where he made a career high 32 starts, only 12 times he made it to the 7th inning.
In all fairness to John, he has been injured. But this also only serves to question his true value to our team. He’s been on the DL 3 times in less then a season and a half. He has averaged only 125 IP, a pitiful number for someone supposedly a legitimate starter. He has recorded just 36 wins in that time for an average of just 9 per year. Is that acceptable for someone who we expect (and more importantly NEED) to have out there every 5th day?
As we head into the 2010 season, our Mets are filled with more questions then ever before. And the biggest question is our pitching. We all know what a healthy Johan is capable of. With Mike Pelfrey we hope he will bounce back from the disappointing 09 campaign. Oliver Perez? What can we say about him? But John Maine is a dark horse. He will be turning 29 this year and he needs to become a force in our rotation, a solid starter to follow Johan. We don’t expect him to compete for a Cy Young award but just put up good, solid numbers. Is 200 innings with 18 wins and even a 4.00 too much to ask? With respectable stats like that we do have the ability to surprise some people this season. But if Maine continues to flounder yet again, to not reach back for something extra, I see us spending a long summer counting down between Johan’s starts.
David, Jose and Carlos will be coming back from injuries. And we all know what they can do when healthy. John Maine, however, we really don’t know. After all this time, we still are not really sure what he is capable of. Can he get better? Or is this the best he‘s got? I do hope he can get better. It’s imperative for him to step up and reach that potential he supposedly has. More then ever we need him.