Midseason Analysis: John Maine
What more can you say about John Maine? He’s lived up to his surname, the “main man” in the Mets’ rotation, establishing himself as their bonafide stopper.
Last year, Maine found remarkable success throwing essentially one pitch — a fastball. He ran it down and in, and ran it up, and rarely mixed in anything else. The fact that he was able to post a 3.60 ERA and pitch brilliantly in the postseason without throwing an adequate breaking pitch nor changing speeds effectively was a testament to his guts and guile. In 2007, he appeared on the scene with not only an above-average slider but the ability to keep batters off-balance using a fair changeup, and the results have been nothing short of outstanding. Further, he’s minimized the “flake outs” that marred his 2006 starts; in fact, he’s lost focus only a handful of times — which is a significant advancement considering that he’d have at least one or two brain farts a game last year. What’s more scary for the rest of the NL is this: he’s getting better with every start, adding a little more confidence every week.
Generally Maine is a cool cat on the mound — levelheaded, deliberate, and emotionless. We saw a different side in his last start of the second half, after being snubbed a second time from the All-Star squad — he was a fierce, take-no-prisoners sonofagun with the focus and sharpness of a finely honed blade. Since he was passed over a THIRD time (when Brian Fuentes opted out and Brandon Webb selected instead), one must wonder if he’ll continue his ferocity in the second half, inflicting damage on the rest of the NL for the massive disrespect bestowed on perhaps the third- or fourth-best starter in the league.
What Maine lacked last year he’s gained this season in spades. He needed a solid breaking pitch, an average change, a jolt of confidence, and the ability to remain focused. Miraculously, he’s found all four (did he visit Oz?) in one fell swoop, and as his confidence builds, he becomes more dominant. And now he’s added a fifth element: an angry, nasty edge, so hopes are high for the second half. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if he IMPROVED upon the first half, becoming a one-man wrecking ball against the rest of the National League.