A popular opinion on the handling of John Maine over the years has been to suggest he’d be better in the bullpen. Metsblog has a post on this topic today as well. Maine has occasionally struggled to get through 6 innings, although I would emphasize that this isn’t always the case, and some theorize that he’d have more success with being able to go all-out in one or two innings without worrying about a second time through the order.
I disagree. I’m not saying Maine usually gets far into games, but I don’t think he’s ever a risk to throw three innings and completely task the bullpen. In April and May of 2009 (throwing out the first June start where he was injured and went on the DL), he averaged around 5.2IP and went 5-3 with a 3.75 ERA. This includes the first three starts of the season, where a pitcher is normally on a pitch count. Without those he averaged 6IP over the next seven starts. He made one bad start over that stretch, allowing five runs (four earned) over 5.1IP. Every other start was a quality one. So it’s not that long ago that John Maine both pitched six innings regularly and was good at it. I know six innings isn’t amazing, but it’s more valuable than a couple of innings here and there out of the bullpen. 2010 was less pleasant for Maine, but he did have three of four quality starts after he redid his mechanics.
My biggest problem with the idea of moving Maine to the bullpen is injury. Maine’s injuries have always been injuries that seem fatigue and wear and tear related. Putting him in a position where he’d possibly pitch, or get ready to pitch, every day would negate days of rest where his shoulder can just recover. Especially with the way Manuel works the bullpen, I’d be worried this would be cause for further injury.
This Maine situation is seemingly more complex than we know. I don’t know what it says for clubhouse relations, control of the clubhouse, hiding injuries, actual performance, or all those other immeasurable things. What I do know is that Manuel and Maine are not getting along, Maine has been up and down performance-wise all year, and hasn’t even hit the 91-92 he was hitting post-injury last year.
There is no real way to remove guilt from Maine in this situation. He struggled in his bullpen, supposedly didn’t top 85 mph for the first batter of the time, and bent over in what appeared to be pain after that. He snapped at his manager in the dugout, and was critical of him in post-game discussions with the media.
Manuel and Warthen get plenty of blame here too. It’s their job to make the call, not Maine’s. If it didn’t look right in the bullpen, then it’s their decision to have him make his start or scratch him or whatever they do. They should come up with a plan, with Maine, about what how they’re going forward. Whether that’s one batter, one walk, or one inning. Maine’s job is to go out there and throw the ball to the best of his ability if he’s on the roster.
Is Maine hiding an injury? This would be the biggest issue of all really. Maine’s been a pretty injury prone guy, especially lately. He definitely could be realizing that he’s often feeling a little pain and that if he complained about every little twinge he’d end up spending more time on the disabled list than not. Maybe he’s decided he needs to pitch through a certain amount of pain as a major leaguer, and he did hint at this thought on Thursday after the game. Then there is him bending over on the mound, looking like he was in pain. Maine explains this as knowing he was on a short leash because he saw Valdes warming up in the bullpen already and he was frustrated. Gameday suggests Maine’s fastball was 85 during that batter. Maine claims he looked at the film and that his mechanics were fine and his last two pitches were 89. I don’t know what sort of speed guns or software the Mets (or the Nationals, or wherever he was looking) have, so I certainly don’t know what to make of that.
Both Manuel and Warthen have suggested they believe Maine would pitch through an injury rather than admit one. Warthen used the words ‘habitual liar’ to describe Maine’s attitude about injuries, supposedly meaning it as a positive reflection on his competitiveness, but Maine said that the comment did upset him. Maine made a statement Friday that he would work towards his next start, whenever and wherever that would be. Manuel claims his gut says there is something physically wrong with Maine, but that he “could be wrong.” Maine will get tests next week to tell for sure.
“I want to pitch,” he said. “Even if I have to go out there and throw lefthanded, that’s what I want to do. I want to go out there and pitch.”
Manuel’s response to this was comical, suggesting that maybe he’d have better lefthanded. Jests aside, I’m not sure this is a comment you should make about a player that’s already annoyed at you and frustrated.
The drama obviously continued beyond that. Maine said he wasn’t asked how he felt on the mound, Manuel pulled him and walked away muttering to himself. This is what caused Maine to confront Manuel in the dugout and what he was most upset about. After the game Maine said he hadn’t talked to Manuel and didn’t know why he was pulled from the game. Someone has said that Maine would be going to the doctor Friday, but Maine knew nothing of this. When the team showed up to the park Friday, Maine had neither gone to the doctor nor talked to anyone on the team about doing so. He was placed on the disabled list with “shoulder weakness” and was told he’d be getting tests next week. Elmer Dessens was activated, and didn’t arrive at the park until the 5th inning, which suggests as least that they hadn’t decided anything and weren’t willfully hiding it from John Maine. Maine still insists he’s not injured, so we’ll see what these tests reveal and where the Mets go from there. It’s not like he’s pitched horrendously either. His previous start wasn’t good, but he has a 4.3 ERA with three quality starts going back to his four most recent starts. The Mets are 2-2 in that stretch.
This situation does not make anyone look good. I’m already biased against Jerry Manuel and his poor decisions and management style going back to 2008. I’m frustrated with John Maine, but it’s hard to dislike a guy that works as hard as he does and is as competitive. You can’t ask much more than that from a player; if you want to criticize Omar Minaya for keeping him because you didn’t think he was talented enough, that’s fine, but as long as John Maine (Or Oliver Perez) is a Met, I’m going to root my hardest for them.
Almost 48 hours later, Maine has finally admitted that he’s felt a small amount of pain, similar to what he felt last year, in his shoulder. He still insists he doesn’t need the DL, and that might be true, and maybe he should’ve seen the doctor yesterday instead of Monday, but this does validate Warthen and Manuel a little. However, they could’ve stuck to their guns and not let him make the start if they suspected injury in the bullpen, and they could’ve probably gotten him to a doctor yesterday, and at least waited before putting him on the DL. Mejia needs to go down anyway, and wasn’t available yesterday, so it wouldn’t have hurt to demote him and bring up Dessens and wait a day for Maine’s results.
I have to wonder if this pain is a result of Maine switching his mechanics back to what he’s comfortable with. Obviously what Warthen had him doing this spring and early in the season was not working, but they need to find something that both keeps Maine’s shoulder from hurting, and allows him to be effective. Nothing we’ve seen from Warthen suggests he can do that. I never thought I’d miss Rick Peterson.
Tags: dan warthen, dl, fire dan warthen, fire jerry manuel, fire manuel, habitual liar, i miss rick peterson, injuries, jerry manuel, John Maine, liar, mechanics, Mets, mets dl, mets injuries, New York Mets, Pitching, rick peterson, Subway Series, velocity
I understand the season has been hurtful so far. I also understand that even the worst teams in baseball don’t play this badly, and that they will win more games. So how do we shake this feeling of doom?
I’m pretty confident in Pelfrey throwing a good game tonight. I think what he worked on this Spring is going to help a lot, he’s getting less distracted on the mound, and has that cocky confidence that this team needs.
You never know with Perez, and I worry that the stupid tinkering that Warthen did with Maine was also a failure for Perez, but I think the Mets will have a chance to win the game tomorrow when he pitches.
Santana is due to bounce back and win one on Saturday. He’s Johan Santana after all.
Then Maine, who I think gets a huge boost being out from under Warthen’s shackles. Doesn’t mean he’ll be successful though, especially the first time going back to what’s worked for him, but the numbers are there if you choose to believe. (those numbers being a 4-1 2.75 ERA May last year before surgery in June. Those numbers being that he was hitting 93 last year, and was 91-92 in the return from surgery in September) I’m hoping being able to be comfortable will be like a weight off his shoulder and he’ll do just fine. I’m certainly not ready to believe Maine’s career is over.
Maybe they drop one of those, which would put them at 5-7. Then they go home for a 10 game home stand where if they go 6-4 they’re back at .500 and go to Philadelphia, a park the Mets love to hit in with hopefully the offense finally clicking, and knock the ball, and 2009, out of the park.
That’s the formula to shake these bad feelings away. If the Mets can get to Philadelphia near .500 and play well there against an injured Phillies team and assert, even if it’s just for one series, that they’re the better team it will go a long way to returning the confidence to this team, and to it’s fans.
Tags: attitude, Baseball, Confidence, dan warthen, fire manuel, fire warthen, Johan Santana, John Maine, Mets, Mike Pelfrey, mop, New York Mets, Oliver Perez, optimism, phillies suck, recipe for success, ya gotta believe
It’s not just Jerry Manuel and Omar Minaya that have to worry about fast starts to the season or their jobs being in jeopardy. The same case could be made for Jeff Francoeur, Daniel Murphy, and Rod Barajas. The way Ike Davis, Fernando Martinez, and Josh Thole have been playing in a way this spring that makes you suspect they’ll be knocking at the door to Citi Field sooner rather than later.
With Reyes possibly being out some, or all, of April the pressure on the starting pitching has just doubled. The most recent report on April suggests that he may be back closer to mid April, but that’s still a rough estimate.
We’ve known for a while that the season was going to hinge on the starting pitching. The offense was projected to be one of the top in the league, and surely would’ve won some games on it’s own even when the pitching struggled. With Reyes and Beltran out, they may not have that cushion for a while, but this doesn’t mean the Mets are doomed to a 9-13 type record to start the season.
The fast start is more important than ever, and if Maine, Perez, and Pelfrey can have a good month of April the Mets will still win games. We all know they’re each capable of pitching good games. It was expected before the season that they could definitely pitch competitively and keep us in games, but now they may be pressured to actually win the games. Instead of quality start performances and limiting the opponents to three runs over six innings, stepping up and going seven innings and occasionally limiting the other teams to merely one or two runs becomes important to the Mets early success.
This isn’t to say the Mets lineup is useless, and that they won’t occasionally put up a crooked number, but Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran are two of the most irreplaceable players in the game today. The season is never won and lost in April, but if the pitching can step up and win more games than they lose, not only will it minimize the damage caused by losing Reyes and Beltran, it will set them up nicely once they return.
This post, and vibrant discussion about it, also featured on The Real Dirty Mets Blog.
Tags: Baseball, Carlos Beltran, daniel murphy, fast start, fernando martinez, fire jerry manuel, fire manuel, ike davis, jeff francoeur, jerry manuel, John Maine, Jose Reyes, josh thole, Mets, Mike Pelfrey, Oliver Perez, rod barajas
Manuel’s ‘ultimatum’ to the pitching staff is basically a case of buying low.
He knows they are better than this, and he also knows Redding could be pretty close to coming back and taking Livan’s spot anyway. So he makes this statement about one more time through the rotation and then there will be changes, but he’s really just stating the obvious. He’s taking a bet that the pitching will be better and/or Omar will make a change with the 5th starter. If the pitching gets better, he looks like he got them going, and if they don’t, likely a change will be happening anyway, and he can take credit for it. This is how he’s been winning people over since he’s been in charge.
Anyone watching these games can clearly see that the starting rotation is struggling, but also that they’re like to get better. Perez was reported to have not done what he was supposed to do in Spring Training while at the World Baseball Classic. So he wasn’t quite ‘ready’ when the season came. It’s now three starts later. He hasn’t looked real good, but there have been small signs between a raise in velocity to a couple of key strikeouts that could give you hope if you’re looking for it.
Maine was coming off an injury. I thought it would take him a couple of starts to get going, given the longer layoff from pitching in real games. He’s had some bad moments, but some good ones too. I suspect he’ll start giving some worthwhile performances soon.
Pelfrey is probably what I’d call the least worrisome. He had some tendinitis so they skipped a start, so he’s had even less. He really stepped it up last year, and It’ll probably take him a little while to start getting back to that point, and to adjust to any scouting adjustments made to him. He’s always shown promise, and I see no reason to think he won’t have a good year.
Livan however, might be more of an issue. Besides that Manuel routinely comes out and basically says he has no confidence in him, he doesn’t seem to have much left. He pitched well in the spring, but it looks like he’s getting by on a lot of trickery and smarts. Batters figure him out and he seems to crumble as he gets through the order a couple of times. Hopefully he can give us one more reasonable start, against the Marlins, and then maybe Redding will be available to get us a couple of good starts at least.
Another thing to note is Sheffield; he still appears to be done. We talked about how it was a win-win situation for the Mets, but it really isn’t. It took at-bats away from Church when he was hot. It’s taking at-bats away from Castillo when he’s hot by way of Tatis not having any fill-in time in the outfield and having to find him a place to play. Barring a sudden turn around, I think the Sheffield experiment should be terminated. However, Manuel is playing him again today. A day after getting swept, sitting Murphy another day. Who’s more likely to get a hit? Who’s more likely to score runs for Santana? Who’s more likely to benefit from a day in LF and will be here all year? Hint: It’s not Gary Sheffield.
Good Place to Watch a Game
The energy of Citi Field was amazing. Even for this cold lackluster game in April. The game sucked. I thought we were finally going to get that blow out, getting three on Peavy early and I figured we’d chase him early and then beat up on the bullpen. It didn’t work out, and the fan down the line that interfered with the ball may have cost them the game. Read the rest of this entry »
More bad news on the Billy Wagner front, as it looks like he’ll need some more time to deal with his elbow issues, but the Mets continue to find ways to win. This is much different than the first two or three months of the season, when the Mets were finding ways to lose. Of course it’s against bad teams, but the Mets do have a good record against good teams too.
I’m pretty sure Manuel was spinning his normal tall tales when he talked about moving a starter to the bullpen, but the media, the fans, and the blogosphere can’t seem to stop talking about it. I don’t think it’s likely, despite Maine’s longevity problems lately. I’d much rather see the Mets throw whatever relief pieces they have in the minors, particularly after roster’s expand, against the wall and see what sticks. Maybe all Ayala needs is a change of scenery, and he can make an impact here. If we want to talk John Maine to the bullpen for October, that’s certainly something to think about once the Phillies fall out of it.
The Phillies are probably due for another upswing after a bunch of losses, and it’s important for the Mets to stay ahead of them. This way when the Phillies struggles resurface, which is pretty much inevitable, they can lengthen the lead and start really pulling away. It’s hard to think the bullpen could possible be worse, and any improvement in the team can only make it stronger. Despite being second in the league to the Cubs in runs scored, the Mets have struggled with big hits with RISP.
The biggest factor in thinking the Mets will take this division..semi-easily.., is that the Mets seem to have made the case that they can beat anyone and can win in a variety of ways. Conversely, the Phillies have exhibited the behavior of being able to be beat by anyone. The Phillies, particularly their starters, are very hit or miss. If their offense isn’t on that day, even the lowly Nationals can beat them, and even if their offense is on, it’s possible that their pitching will keep opponents in the game.
I worry about John Maine, but I think he’ll be okay in the end. A little shoulder stiffness is really all it is, and apparently they knew about it before hand, which means that he was able to pitch with it without hurting it further. Maybe they skip him in the rotation due to the off day, but I’m hopeful it’ll be alright in the end.
More importantly, Johan Santana stepped up after an exhausting game on Saturday where the Mets used the bullpen so roughly that Oliver Perez was warming up in the 14th inning. Santana pitched a complete game, waylaid his critics a bit, and gave the bullpen a much needed rest. They have an off day on Thursday too, so if Pelfrey can give them a lot tonight, they’ll get a nice recharge.
Another thing I’ve been thinking about as the trade deadline looms is what the Mets are to do. I am not a fan of Adam Dunn, or the “Gets on base so strike outs don’t matter” group. While I think our bullpen is excellent, I know bullpen suckiness and exhaustion were the main culprits last year. Maybe another solid arm in there is the best solution the Mets can find. There is a lot of talk of a corner outfielder, and even yesterday I thought this should’ve been the priority. I think Carlos Delgado changes that, Delgado has been playing pretty amazingly for a while now, and I don’t think it’s something he’s going to lose midseason. This Delgado is more true to form than the ones fans grew to hate in 2007 and earlier this year. If Delgado is hitting, then the offense is not as big a problem as it was, and couple that with the possibility that Church will be back soon, and the success Tatis and Endy have had filling in, we might be okay.
So my (un)professional opinion is to get a bullpen arm, and keep an eye out for a cheap outfielder too, even if it’s just someone that can get hot for a week or two, or just needs a change of scenery. Even if the bullpen arm doesn’t end up being great, it’ll distribute the work load and hopefully keep the best guys healthy and fresh for the stretch run.
Barely half a day after the horrible loss Tuesday night in Los Angeles and all the things we were complaining about have been put to rest momentarily, but hopefully for good. Situational hitting, getting hits with two outs, with runners in scoring position, tacking on runs, offense in general..all looked good in this Wednesday afternoon game. On the pitching end, the Mets took another big step, finally reaching the 9th inning with a starter. John Maine struggled a little in the 9th and didn’t get to finish, but that’s alright. John Maine has taken steps to show that he’s going to get better this year, and with Santana and Maine, forget Pedro, at the top of this rotation, it gives me a lot of confidence. It’d have been nice for Maine to get the complete game, but Peterson and Willie gave him a lot more rope than I expected, and I think that says that they agree with me about him being improved over last year. Also, the game isn’t about personal stats and 8.1 is plenty from a starter, even bad bullpens should be able to get those last two outs. The bullpen will pitch .2 innings over two days, getting some much needed rest, hopefully charging them for a strong homestand.
However, it’s just one game, and we’ve seen these flashes in other games, and other stretches. The Mets need to isolate whatever is causing the difference between these last two games, whether that be the approach at the plate, the lineup, the manager, or just plain bad luck, and figure out how to make Wednesday stick. The plane ride home just got a little bit lighter, and hopefully the off day will give them time to figure out what went right on Wednesday afternoon.
A quick note on the leadership that so many people think is absent from the Mets and their clubhouse. It’s becoming _very_ obvious to me that Reyes and Wright have taken an active role, if not a public role, in leading this team. They were the first two, as is often the case, out to the mound to congratulate Maine. When a key error gave them the final game against the Diamondbacks, Reyes and Wright, nowhere near getting up in the inning, were the first two out of the dugout to give Beltran a high five with the go-ahead run. There is so much going on in terms of team chemistry that we just don’t see, or only see through the media’s eyes, who are so obviously just searching for anything to write about. The team is under performing, so they look negative.