September 21, 2006
BASEBALL: Gut Check
We'll see if Pedro is ready for the postseason, but ready or not, he's Pedro; he'll be the #1 starter. And I feel pretty solid right now about Glavine, El Duque and Maine, all things considered. But while (correct me if I'm wrong) there doesn't seem to have been a formal announcement, it seems unlikely that the Mets are going with Maine instead of Steve Trachsel.
The Maine/Trachsel decision is a major test of what Willie Randolph and Omar Minaya are made of. Starting Trachsel, who is the longest-tenured Met and has been in the rotation all year, is the sentimental move, the "he's one of my guys" move, the Joe Torre move. Starting Maine, the better pitcher, is the Casey Stengel move, the John McGraw, Earl Weaver, Connie Mack move. (In 1929, Mack sent his ace, Lefty Grove, to the bullpen because he thought Grove matched up poorly against the Cubs and started the aging Howard Ehmke instead).
Fact: if you look at Trachsel's starts 3 at a time, he has just two, overlapping three-start stretches this season (August 2-13 and August 8-18) where he posted an ERA below 3.44 - while Maine's ERA for the season is 3.42.
Bill James' "Game Score" method provides a quick shorthand for how well a pitcher has pitched in a particular game - let's look at the year's game scores for Trachsel and Maine from best to worst:
|9.18.06||Trachsel||vs. FLA||6 1/3||0||0.00||73|
|8.13.06||Trachsel||At WSH||6 2/3||1||1.35||69|
|9.2.06||Maine||At HOU||6 1/3||2||2.84||66|
|8.28.06||Maine||vs. PHI||6 1/3||2||2.84||61|
|8.8.06||Trachsel||vs. SD||5 2/3||2||3.18||58|
|7.3.06||Maine||vs. PIT||4 2/3||2||3.86||56|
|7.6.06||Trachsel||vs. PIT||6 1/3||3||4.26||55|
|8.12.06||Maine||At WSH||5 1/3||4||6.75||54|
|8.2.06||Trachsel||At FLA||5 2/3||3||4.76||51|
|5.2.06||Maine||vs. WSH||5 1/3||4||6.75||51|
|6.9.06||Trachsel||At ARI||5 1/3||3||5.06||41|
|7.19.06||Trachsel||At CIN||3 1/3||3||8.10||40|
|9.4.06||Trachsel||vs. ATL||4 1/3||3||6.23||40|
|9.10.06||Trachsel||vs. LAD||2 2/3||4||13.50||36|
|4.30.06||Trachsel||At ATL||3 2/3||6||14.73||25|
|7.24.06||Trachsel||vs. CHN||4 2/3||8||15.43||23|
You tell me - who's more likely to throw a good or at least an acceptable start in the postseason? And isn't that, not seniority or salary or sentiment, the only question Randolph and Minaya need to be asking?
I would go with Maine, but for a different reason. It looks like he is at least a part of the Mets future. To get him post-season experience would be a big plus in his development. Neither will be expected to go out and dominate, so get a double return. Use Maine, who will probably at least keep you in the game and allow him to gain experience.
Randolph was never big on Trachsel, and it was so noticable, it made the papers last year and this. Numbers aside (and you don't cast them aside, you decide what to do with them), Trachsel has always come through with a big game when it was needed. Plus he is a veteran, and Randolph likes veterans. In other words, when the talent is close, you go with a vet. He has no such compunctions about Wright or Reyes.
Maine is a better pitcher than Trachsel, but not by as much as say, Hernandez than Trachsel. But against Trachsel's favor, he pitches so slowly that the defense, in colder weather, starts to freeze up.
Maine is better, but I would go with Trachsel.
And I feel pretty solid right now about Glavine, El Duque and Maine, all things considered.
Geez, you're a lot more optimistic than I am. I don't feel solid about any of them. Pedro's been hurt forever. Glavine's been bad the second half of the season. El Duque's a #5 starter at best, with a 5 ERA. And Maine's had a total of 22 starts in his big league career.
If it were any other season where other teams had decent pitching, I'd give us no shot. We're just lucky that the rest of the league stinks this year.
Glavine has been very good over his past few starts, and El Duque's been absolutely solid in most of his starts with the club, and especially lately. He does seem to have a bad outing every third or fourth time out, but in the post-season there are few pitchers out there that I would rather have on the mound.
Trax or Maine, Maine or Trax? I think the only reason to pick Trax is pure sentiment, and we can't do that. It was a mistake to go woth Bobby Jones over Rusch in '00 (yes, yes, I know about the NLDS game four, but what about the NLCS and WS game four?), and Maine is just the better pitcher right now.
The way I see it, the Mets have a bullpen so deep they can go to it for five or even six innings as needed. So I want a starter who comes out of the gate fast.
Pitches 1-15 (avg/obp/slg)
Trachsel : .341/.382/.622
Trachsel : .202/.306/.319
Maine : .140/.229/.233
Trachsel : .294/.351/.392
Maine : .154/.186/.256
If the Mets run into a hot pitching staff, it will not make a difference who starts. I agree with Al above, if it comes down to a pitchers duel the Mets are in trouble.
The Trachsel/Maine decision should be made when the Mets know who they're playing, depending on who matches up better. If, for instance, the Mets play the Phillies in the LCS, Maine is the VERY obvious choice. If the Marlins manage to make it to the second round (though that looks rather unlikely at this point), Trachsel would be the equally obvious choice.
In the first round, the Mets might not even use a fourth starter. If they do, though, Trachsel is better against the Cardinals, proven good against the Padres and very good vs. the Giants (no record for Maine against either), and atrocious against the Dodgers while Maine was at least mediocre against them.
It seems to me that, even with small sample sizes, this is the way to make the decision, and allows Randolph to present a compelling case.