The problems so far with John Maine, it seems, have been diagnosed by Maine himself. Last night Maine lamented the speed and sink of his fastball, and, unsurprisingly, that’s where many of the problems lie.
His strike percentage this year (59.8) is a little low, considering his average is around 62 percent, but it’s not the walks that have been hurting him (though four walks in eight innings isn’t great).
One of the biggest problems, is that his groundball percentage is at an all-time low, leading him to give up three homers in just eight innings so far this year. He gave up just eight long balls in 81 1/3 innings last year and 16 in 140 innings in 2008. Usually Maine gets about 35-45 percent groundballs. He’s only gotten 23.3 percent groundballs in two starts this year. His line-drive rate is relatively consistent, but the flyballs are way out of wack, a career-high 50 percent so far, up from an average of about 42 percent. This is certainly not helping the home run issues.
The other problem is the fastball velocity. Maine’s average this year so far is 89.2 mph. That’s the lowest it’s been since 2004 with the Orioles. It hadn’t dropped below 90 mph in any year since then. Because of the fastball issues, Maine is throwing it a lot less, exposing his off-speed pitches. Usually Maine throws his fastball about 68-70 percent of the time. Now he’s throwing it just 55 percent. He’s increased his slider use to its highest point since 2005 and he’s never thrown his change more often.
Over the course of his career, Maine’s only two plus pitches have been his fastball and slider, the change has been below average. Throwing that more to compensate for a lack of zip on your best pitch has disaster written all over it.
Maybe he is having health issues. Maybe he’s feeling tentative on the mound because of the health issues. No matter what it is, Maine needs to somehow regain some sink, some velocity and some confidence on that fastball. Once he does, everything else should fall in line.