John Maine’s Chronic Mechanical Problem

Absolutely nothing has changed with John Maine since I wrote this post in late July 2008: I Can Fix Maine in 10 Minutes. Mind you, this was before Maine’s shoulder problems arose (though if you read the post the injury was predicted).

I had hopes that the issue was understood and being addressed last spring, but Maine has since regressed. Maybe it’s a mental block for Maine, or maybe it’s a failure on the part of Dan Warthen. Or maybe fixing the issue hasn’t been made a focus, for whatever reason. It would be unrealistic to expect a complete overhaul of his mechanics at this point in his life, but not unreasonable to believe minor adjustments could be made to lessen his problems (and for those who didn’t get it, my “10 minutes” title was a joke — a dig on Rick Peterson). The bottom line is, Maine still severely over-rotates, carries the ball behind his back, and as a result opens up his front shoulder too early and puts his release point at a position that severely limits the possible places the ball can go AND puts his shoulder muscles in danger. The only difference between now and 2008 is a significant loss in velocity, which is probably a combination of the poor mechanics and the accelerated wear and tear on his arm (that were caused by the poor mechanics).

When Maine was slinging the ball at 95+ MPH, it didn’t matter that the only spot he could hit consistently was up and in to RH hitters / up and away to LH hitters — the velocity combined with that location made him tough to hit. If by some miracle Maine can get his giddyup back in that range, he has a chance to be an effective pitcher 50-60% of the time. If not, he’s going to have a hard time adjusting to what is average MLB velocity, because his mechanics as they are now do not allow him to have average control — much less the pinpoint control necessary to win consistently at the big league level.

The situation isn’t completely hopeless, but it’s not going to get better on its own. Maine needs proper direction and intensive concentration on correcting his mechanics at least enough to minimize the physical danger and improve command. Again, an overhaul is likely unrealistic, but tweaks are possible. Either way, a minor league stint is probably the best course of action for both Maine and the Mets over the long haul.

Oh, for those who think I have no business talking about pitching mechanics, please read this before spitting your venom below. You’re welcomed to engage in intelligent debate, but please try to refrain from questioning my credentials — it’s old, it’s boring, and it doesn’t add to the conversation.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Walnutz15 April 14, 2010 at 9:03 am
    Maine literally looked like he wanted to cry last night in the postgame interviews. Like a guy who has absolutely no answer; and one that wanted to cut the reporters off half-way into their questioning….woo-fah!

    This guy’s completely shot mentally — and really, it’s a question of whether or not he actually CAN work himself back, physically.

    Becoming more cerebral than he already was; nibbling at 95mph on his best day — makes me downright scared to watch a guy going forward with no confidence and an 89mph fastball.

    Trachsel-treatment is a must for this guy; and it’s up to him to decide whether or not he can continue on the major league stage within this organization. Warthen ain’t gonna help.

    Sad to know that even more allocation of our payroll will be wasted so that Maine can possibly feel better about himself at Triple-A. Speaking truthfully and honestly, I was a member of the small community of fans who always felt Maine was overrated by the organization (even when healthy).

    He’s looked like his alter-ego “Johnny Rocket” in 100% of the early-goings.

    *And The Rocket’s scared-glare….400ft Bombs Bursting in Air” — sick of him.

  2. TheDZA April 14, 2010 at 9:23 am
    Looks like we are seeing the last turn of the coaching staff/front-office no?
    I am confused as to why Warthen is no help? What is his role if not to guide these guys and keep them within their parameters of performance?
    I guess it helps if the pitchers listen (See Ollie Perez…say no more).

    So who we got to come up if Maine does go down, I see that Dillon gee had a good start recently?

  3. Kenny from Crooklyn April 14, 2010 at 10:45 am
    yo, did any1 see maine’s “we believe” commercial? it looks like a hostage video. walnutz is right- maine is shot mentelly.
  4. Mike April 14, 2010 at 10:59 am
    I have two inputs to this conversation. Both things I have said before in the comments here on MetsToday.

    John Maine needs to go to the minors and see if he can go the way of Traschel and right himself. Maybe he pulls a Roy Halladay and comes back the best pitcher in baseball (HA!). No really what does he have to lose? He can work on things and not feel pressure and maybe someone down there in AAA land (Buffalo) will get him to rework his mechanics. It is worth a shot at this point. He has two more starts before this happens IMO.

    Dan Warthen is awful. I realize he can only do so much, but I prefer the pitching guru (Peterson) to him because Rick got results from Maine and Perez. Everyone will hate on him for what he said about Zambrano, but ultimately he was right about Scott Kazmir. He was just so wrong about Victor that he could never live it down and the Rays at least got a few good years out of Scott. Maybe the Mets win the WS in 2006 with Kazmir, but maybe if instead of Zambrano they got someone useful they would have won it anyway. Warthen did one good thing in 2008 (get Ollie to go straight to the plate) but that only lasted so long. Under his watch Maine and Perez have regressed greatly, Mike Pelfrey became stagnant (perhaps he steps forward this year) and the bullpen has been awful (also hat tip to Jerry for that one). I will be very happy once the whole staff is fired this summer.

    Speaking of which it cracks me up to hear Gary and Keith say “well the team is not turning on Jerry anytime soon.” As if that matters or that is the reason Willie got fired. So only if the team turns on the manager he can be fired? And if the team loves their manager and supported him endlessly, that is enough even if the team stinks? Please. It’s a joke.

  5. LibertyBoy April 14, 2010 at 11:17 am
    I think JJ chops to the stump’s root when he says he’s simply not getting the guidance from the staff. These starters look alone and isolated out there, not independent and self-reliant. It’s an org thing. A commenter on my site <<>> suggested that Kevin Towers, fresh to the Yankee official scouting scene, may be setting up camp under Cashman’s wing temporarily, to make a run at the Citi office. He’s GM material, and that’s some grist for the Metsie rumor mill.

    As always Joe, nice read on pitcher mechanics and let it be said that the deep baseball culture in the northeast is roiling with experts and I say that because I believe it truly.

  6. Gerald April 14, 2010 at 12:11 pm
    All of the current starters except maybe JN have regressed. This entire team has regressed.
  7. argonbunnies April 14, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    I’ve noticed Maine’s extreme rotation too. I realize it’s not the greatest for health and command, but I fear that changing it will take away his primary weapon. My impression was that his long arm action served to upset hitters’ timing, making them late. There are plenty of pitchers who throw 92-94mph, and almost none who get the number of swings and misses on their fastballs that Maine got in 2006-2007.

    If you take that timing-upsetting delivery away, I doubt Maine has enough else to offer to be an MLB pitcher. I’d rather do everything possible to return him to his old strengths than to try to create brand new ones (effectively from scratch).

  8. Mike April 14, 2010 at 2:51 pm
    Something that bugs me is that people complain that his mechanics are off or that he just can’t get the mental toughness to succeed in the MLB. Why do people try to rationalize and complicate the simple answer? John Maine is simply not that good of a pitcher. At one point in his career he had physical tools that overcame his inability to properly throw a baseball, but now those tools are gone or are fading fast and he is exposed. Same with Oliver Perez. Is it that only when someone is properly performing but still coming up short that we declare them bad baseball players? If a guy can’t ever get his mechanics down or consistently repeat his mechanics then why can’t we say he stinks even if he has physical gifts that could make him good. If he can’t harness it then he stinks. Plain and simple. Major league players can only get to the show if they are immensely talented, so in the relative world they are really quite good at the game, but ultimately at that level they stink if they cannot properly perform the actions that are necessary to make them good ball players.

    Am I over simplifying things!?

  9. argonbunnies April 14, 2010 at 3:48 pm
    It just occurred to me that the “over-rotating” Joe’s talking about is the full upper body, whereas the “long arm action” I’m talking about might just result from rotating the arm itself way back (“scap-loading”, I believe). I don’t know how interrelated these two are.
  10. Kev April 15, 2010 at 7:06 am
    I agree with Mike. I have always been a big fan of Maine, but even I need to publicly admit what I have always privately know: he just isn’t very good. He had a good fastball and a nice run a few years ago, but his poor performances greatly outweigh his good ones at this point. We all cross our fingers and find reasons to believe every time he goes 6 inning and gives up 3 runs — because that’s become an accomplishment for him. There are probably myriad reasons – mechanical, psychological, physical, etc. – but sooner or later, it just comes down to “he’s not that good.”
  11. DC Niner April 15, 2010 at 11:30 am
    You can’t say he stinks. He a Metsie. He needs help,he needs excuses…. By the way how does last place smell? When we stop playing the Phils we’ll gain more on you losers/
  12. 69-86-xx April 15, 2010 at 1:20 pm
    I guess the mets have finally hit rock bottom. A washington nationals fan has called us losers. I agree with the assesment that Maine’s carear in the majors could be done if ne never regains the velocity. He has never been more than a 1-pitch pitcher and I would be curious to see if he didnt have to pace himself and could go out guns blazing for 1 inning in relief, if he could get that 92-94 velocity back.