As the Mets prepare for a weekend battle with their rival Phillies, there are many reasons to feel good about the way the Mets have found ways to win games. The Mets have pitched well, but have been extremely lucky and regression will strike soon. We are all aware of John Maine’s fall from grace, but many fans are hopeful he can turn it around. Wednesday’s day game provided a quick glimpse of hope, but likely was a result of a few different luck factors. A starting pitcher is rarely going to have success throwing his 88 mph fastball nearly 95% of the time like John Maine did on Wednesday.
According to Texas Leaguers pitch f/x data, John Maine threw 95 pitches; 90 four-seam fastballs, 4 change ups, and 1 slider. In Maine’s first three starts, he threw his four-seamer 60.9% of the time, generating a strike 59.5% of the time and a whiff only 4.8%. His average velocity was 88.9 mph and hitters were able to put his fastball into play 16.7% of the time, while fouling it off 19.5% of the time. It’s no secret that Maine’s average fastball velocity has dropped about 4mph over the past couple years. The velocity is an issue, but with good control a drop in velocity can be managed. Unfortunately, Maine has not been able to control his fastball any better. In 2008 and 2009, Maine threw his fastball for a strike 64% of the time. The 5% decreases in control mixed with the rapidly decreasing fastball velocity aren’t promising factors for those expecting a bounce back campaign from Maine. He won’t be able to maximize the effectiveness of his secondary pitches without setting them up with fastball strikes.
It seems only a matter of time until Maine is sent to the pen and a fluke successful start like this one isn’t going to deter Manuel from making decisions to save his job. A couple weeks back, Richard discussed who Maine’s replacement would be in the rotation. I do not consider myself someone who hates Omar, or is constantly out to get him, but I can’t emphasize enough how poor a decision it was to DFA Nelson Figueroa. The Mets do not have a lot of major league ready pitching depth and with Jenrry Mejia working strictly in low leverage situations out of the bullpen, it doesn’t appear that he’ll be stretched out at any point this year. There a few options in AAA, but none of them inspire a lot of confidence like Nelson Figueroa would have.
Let’s take a look at Nelson Figueroa’s pitch f/x data since 2008, again via Texas Leaguers. Figueroa throws a four-seam fastball and sometimes mixes in a two-seamer, throwing them about 40% of the time. He also has a cut-fastball that he has thrown about 8% of the time. He has thrown a slider 22% of the time, a change-up 15% of the time, and a curve ball 15% of the time. His fastballs average about 88 mph, his change up and slider average around 82 mph and his curveball sits at 73 mph. Figueroa can basically throw you anything and he does it with good control, throwing every pitch aside from his change-up for a strike at least 63% of the time. He does generate a lot of foul balls, and his whiff rates never exceed 10% on any pitch, but the important thing is that he has thrown strikes. I don’t think there’s any question that he would have been effective as a starter for a full season, especially with the park factor and decent defense behind him. Even his FIPs have been more than respectable, with a 4.26 FIP in ’08, and a 4.31 FIP in ’09. Many fans have their gripes with Omar, but this is the one that continues to irk me the most.