The start of the baseball season is less than a month away. Every weekday until opening day, we'll be counting down, from No. 20 to No. 1, the most important Mets players for the upcoming 2010 slate. Today, No. 7, starting pitcher John Maine.
John Maine turns 29 years old in May, which is strange, because Maine always seems like someone who is about to do something, rather than someone who, at the age he is, probably should have done it already. Maine, because he is a Met, has only one full healthy season, 2007, when he made 32 starts and notched a 3.92 ERA. That's an all-star season for Maine: That's all the Mets could possibly hope for out of him.
Maine has never had dominant stuff: He throws in the low 90s and changes speeds a ton, keeping batters off balance and operating largely on guile. After returning from all kinds of shoulder problems last year, he pitched well in four September starts and, this spring, generally seems as healthy as any Met gets anymore.
For a guy who is supposedly a stabilizing, rather than dominant, force in the rotation, it might be nice if Maine could throw more innings. Even in 2007, he threw only 168 innings in those 32 starts, barely over five innings a start. Maine starts have a tendency to require a lot of heavy lifting from the bullpen. The Mets need Maine to throw 200 innings this year, to be their new Steve Trachsel. That seems nearly impossible, but if Maine doesn't have top-of-the-rotation stuff, and he can't eat innings ... what is it we have here, exactly?