What To Do About John Maine?

This off season John Maine is a potential non-tender candidate and there has been talk that the Mets will non-tender him today, the deadline for offering your players arbitration. The Mets can still sign Maine if they do non-tender him but being non-tendered is sought of like being fired and the club telling you you’re not worth the price you will get in arbitration.

I have been a supporter of John Maine’s for the last few seasons.  I felt that trading Kris Benson for Maine was a good move by Omar.  Maine had a good 2006 post season and in 2007 he won 15 games and even came close to a no hitter in the heat of a September pennant race against the Marlins.  The future looked solid for him as the 2008 season drew near, but unfortunately it was dismal year for Maine, who only won ten games and ended the season on the DL with an arm injury. He ended up having surgery to remove a bone spur from his shoulder, and reportedly his doctors said that the spur was the biggest they had ever seen.

Maine came into the 2009 season ready to prove that the injury was behind him and he was working hard to get back to his 2007 form.  Unfortunately for him and the fans, Maine struggled in April, posting a 5.40 ERA and only had one victory in four starts. The results in May were much better, as Maine went 4-1 with an ERA of 2.75.  Maine did not have a good June last year he was subsequently placed on the DL due to fatigue in his pitching arm.  He suffered many setbacks as he tried to comeback from injuries, but remained on the DL until September in which he only went more than 5 innings once. Maine finished 2009 with a 7-6 record while pitching 81.1 innings and posting a 4.43 ERA. His last start of the season was a good one though; he pitched seven innings, allowed just one earned run and struck out seven Astros.

A lot of friends have accused me of having blind loyalty for John Maine, and for the most part they are probably right. However, what can I say, I like his gritty attitude and his never say die approach to the game.  He always wants the ball and always gives 110%.  Maine’s arm/shoulder strength has always been somewhat worrisome to me.  Last season, was not the first time he had to sit due to weakness in his shoulder.  Usually before or right after the All-Star break Maine will miss a start or two due to weakness in his pitching arm. Maine also has a hard time getting out of the fifth inning as his effectiveness worsens when he works deep into games. 

I have felt for a long time that Maine would be best served as a vital part of the bullpen.  He could be used in several roles including that of a a long man, or the spot that I prefer him in, as part of a bridge to K-Rod.  I think the Mets need to seriously consider putting Maine in the pen where I believe they will get the most production out of him while keeping the wear and tear on his arm to a minimum.

The problem with Maine is not so much the walks as it is the number of pitches he throws in a game.  I believe in 2007, batters hit the most foul balls against him, and he had one of the highest number of 3-2 counts in the majors that season. Maine’s stuff is good, but it is not overpowering, and when opposing lineups see him after a couple of turns through the lineup, they only swing at pitches in the zone forcing him to throw more pitches which results in fatigue and high pitch counts. If Maine were to work out of the bullpen, it would alleviate that problem and he may be able to give the Mets one or two very effective innings per appearance. In a role like that, I believe he excel and become a bigger asset to the Mets than he currently is right now.