Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Maine

Since becoming a Met in 2006, John Maine has shown signs of greatness, such as his near no-hitter on Sept 29, 2007. However, he has never been able to maintain the consistent level of pitching that a pitcher of his talent needs to be a top of the rotation starter.

Never was this more apparent than during his 2009 season. In fact, you might say Maine's home-road splits last season suggest a case of the Jekyll and Hyde syndrome.

After losing his first start at Citi Field in 2009 to the San Diego Padres on April 16, John Maine took the mound at his home park six more times. These are the lines for those six starts:
  • Apr. 27 vs. FLA: 6.0 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 3 BB, 4 K
  • May 9 vs. PIT: 6.0 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 2 BB, 3 K
  • May 25 vs. WAS: 6.0 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 3 BB, 4 K
  • May 31 vs. FLA: 6.0 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 2 BB, 5 K
  • Sept. 20 vs. WAS: 5.0 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 1 BB, 1 K
  • Oct. 2 vs. HOU: 7.0 IP, 1 ER, 5 H, 0 BB, 7 K
Maine's totals over those six starts were outstanding. In 36 innings pitched, he gave up only three earned runs for a microscopic 0.75 ERA. He also allowed 18 hits and walked 11 batters, giving him a 0.81 WHIP.

Even if you include his performance in his April 16 loss to the Padres, Maine's overall numbers at Citi Field remained eye-popping. For the season, Maine was 6-1 with a 1.98 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP at home.

Although Mets pitchers allowed 81 HR to opposing batters in 81 home games, Maine barely contributed to that number. In his seven starts at Citi Field, Maine gave up one measly home run.

Clearly, John Maine performed at his Dr. Jekyll-like best when toeing the rubber at Citi Field. However, all it took was a change in venue for Maine to make his Mr. Hyde-like transformation.

In eight starts away from Citi Field, John Maine went 1-6, with a bloated 6.92 ERA and an embarrassing 1.64 WHIP. He gave up seven home runs on the road even though he pitched fewer innings in his road grays than he did in his home whites (41.0 IP at Citi Field, 40.1 IP on the road).

Even his sole road victory in 2009 wasn't particularly impressive. On May 4 at Turner Field in Atlanta, Maine defeated the Braves. However, in his six innings of work, he gave up three runs, while allowing three hits and walking a whopping six batters. Fortunately, the Mets' offense showed up in the 6-4 victory.

Three runs in six innings is acceptable, but those three runs matched the TOTAL number of runs given up by Maine in his last six starts at Citi Field.

So which Maine will show up for the Mets in 2010? John claims to be fully recovered from his injury-shortened 2009 season. Will he regain his 15-victory form that he exhibited during the 2007 season, the year that featured his near no-hitter against the Marlins? Or will he continue to take one step forward and two steps back, all coinciding with his starts at home and on the road?

If he wants to escape from the Four Rainouts part of Johan Santana and The Four Rainouts, he'll need to be Dr. Jekyll for 30-plus starts. Then the only transformation Maine will make is the one where he becomes an All-Star.

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