John Maine and His Decaying Arm

The title may have been a little bit misleading, but its honestly how i feel. When the Mets first received Maine in the trade for Anna, i mean..Kris Benson we received a hard-throwing prospect with the potential to be a #3 starter with the refining of a slider. His rising fastball, providing hope to anyone who watched it crash into the catchers mitt routinely around 95-96 MPH. Those days are long gone, my friends.

Since that 2006 season, Maine’s velocity has steadily decreased year-to-year – but why? Sometimes a pitcher will sacrifice a few miles for some control – but this isn’t the case with John Maine. His walk rates have increased, from 3.53 in 2007, his first full year as a Met to 4.20 in his shortened 2009. Maine’s inability to stay healthy specifically with shoulder injures has also tanked the majority of trade value that he would have accrued. In 2009, he was pitching around 92-93 MPH but occasionally touching 94 MPH – but for some reason, possibly shoulder discomfort, refused to throw anything but a fastball and a change-up. His first 2010 outing had him TOPPING at 90 MPH and throwing around half of his first pitches for strikes. I do understand, pitchers add velocity as the season goes on – but 4-6 MPH? Thats almost hard to believe it will be reclaimed as the wear and tear of the season weighs on his right shoulder. The only positive note was he was throwing his slider, and it was getting swings-and-misses.

Is his final destination in the bullpen? It is too early to tell. If Maine can stay around 92 MPH, learn how to repeat his mechanics and throw strikes and as he did in his first start of 2010, however disastrous throw his breaking balls for strikes, he could become a solid 4-5 starter with 12 wins a year and a 4.30 or so ERA. His flyball ways and decreased velocity will really make it hard for him to play in any of the smaller parks in the league, so his trade value is limited to either a pitching guru’s reclamation project, or the new Brian Stokes – and if the latter comparison becomes true, who’s the Gary Matthews Jr. we get for him?

If Omar Minaya has any idea what he’s doing – he may be giving GMJ playing time so that he can increase his trade value and pickup an insurance starter. Lets hope Maine can bounce back for the sake of the bullpen.