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Interview: Baseball Prospectus's Marc Normandin

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Good friend and Baseball Prospectus columnist Marc Normandin took a break from his various paid writing gigs to answer some of my questions for free.

Eric Simon: Now that you're apparently taking a break from your smear campaign against the benevolent Endy Chavez, what made you decide to profile John Maine?

Marc Normandin: Hey now, I'm a big Endy fan too. I was all over his defensive abilities, and he made that amazing catch just a few days after in the playoffs. I can't wait for Endy to come back so we can see a little less Shawn Green in our lives.

As for why I profiled Maine, he's been on my radar for awhile. His flyball tendencies make him a nifty fit for Shea Stadium, but he's also been an effective pitcher on the road, a credit to the outfield defense behind him. Maine was a dominating pitcher in the minors due to his plus fastball at the lower levels. With a pitch like that, you can mow down hitters, just like Maine did. The Orioles misinterpreted his level of readiness though, and moved him between the high minors and the majors for a while before giving up on him for Kris Benson. The O's thought they were picking up a pitcher that pitching coach Leo Mazzone could fix; after all, Benson was originally a first rounder for the Pirates back in the day. I always wonder why teams give up (or move on without) certain players, especially one with Maine's abilities and the potential he showed in the minor leagues. It's also been interesting seeing him mature from a lucky pitcher in 2006 into a potential force and a probably #2 guy in 2007.

Eric Simon: In his three starts since your profile Maine has been dominant (via Baseball Musings):

IP H R ER HR BB K
22.2 15 6 5 1 2 21

He was good before that, but walks had been a big problem for him through the first two-plus months of the season. It's doubtful that he'll continue to average less than a walk per game, but is 2-3 out of the question?

Marc Normandin: Maine is capable of walking fewer than 4-5 batters per game, but 2 might be asking a bit much from him. If he could settle in at 3 walks per game, given his strikeouts and ability to keep the ball in the park this year, he could remain a valuable pitcher. The 4-5 seemed like too many when I was checking out his numbers, but I also don't think he's getting ready to turn into David Wells or Bret Saberhagen either.

Eric Simon: Who would you compare him to, either favorably or otherwise?

Marc Normandin: Well, I'm not sure exactly who Maine comps to, which is part of the reason I wanted to take a look at him. He's a different animal than most of the pitchers I've profiled so far in my column. I can tell you who he is not like though: his PECOTA comps were (understandably) unkind, based on his rough major league experience mixed in with his very lucky 2006 season. He seems to have settled in more comfortably in 2007, with his performance less dependent on luck than it was in the past, and influenced more by his talent. I don't expect him to turn into Steve Trachsel or Shawn Chacon, players #4 and #5 on his similar players list. They were placed there due to Maine's .225 BABIP in 2006, as the two seasons he comps with from those other guys were of the same variety. Maine's definitely a #3, and a potential #2 if he can keep his walks down and continue with his recent homer stinginess.

Eric Simon: Maine aside, the Mets have played below .500 ball for the last 50 games. They've been hurt by injuries, sure, but the offense has sputtered with a few exceptions. If you're the GM, what are you looking for as the trade deadline approaches?

Marc Normandin: The Mets are going to need some help at second base, with Valentin's bat nonexistent and his defensive range limited by his injuries. He was a nifty pickup for last season, but his usefulness is nil given his situation at present. Less Shawn Green is always a plus, and with Carlos Gomez gone and Endy Chavez on the disabled list, that becomes less likely unless they can acquire a major league outfielder. Krivsky is looking for bullpen help in exchange for Adam Dunn, which leaves the Mets out of the race. They could use their own help in the pen, although the little relief help available might not be worth the price, and they should try to restock from their own organization. There isn't a whole lot to acquire, and the shine of guys like Pat Burrell, never that great to begin with due to his poor defense, has probably worn off after poor starts to this season. The Mets might need to ride it out or attempt to fix things with what they already have in the high-minors and on their major league roster.

Eric Simon: How do you see the NL East shaking out as the season wears on?

Marc Normandin: I don't think Philly will stay in it, although they might put a scare in the division the next week trying to stave off the franchise's 10,000th loss. The Marlins are a .500 team if everything goes right for them, which it has not in 2007.

The Nationals are a non-issue until players they haven't drafted yet are almost ready for a taste of the major leagues. The Mets are in first, but they have their share of problems between injuries in the outfield, a poor season from Paul Lo Duca, Jose Valentin's injury-assisted demise, and the beleaguered bullpen. Pedro Martinez' return should help, but he's not going to help Carlos Delgado slow his decline or pitch all the setup innings.

The Braves would scare the hell out of me if I were a Mets fan. They're only a few games back at the break with multiple players significantly underperforming. If any two of Andruw Jones, Brian McCann or Jeff Francoeur pick up the pace in the second half, the Mets could be in trouble.

Atlanta's pitching is their weakest point, and it's more of a problem if John Smoltz is out for any length of time. They do have the offensive horses and improved bullpen to see them through though, and the Mets aren't invulnerable.

Eric Simon: Thanks, dude. You can check out Marc's work at Baseball Prospectus, Heater, and The New York Sun, amongst others.