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John Maine is the Balls

While the fifth spot in the starting rotation is a trainwreck right now, it's comforting to know that the first three spots are looking bueno. Rounding out that top three -- after Johan Santana and Pedro Martinez -- is John Maine, who has had one helluva spring. Have a look at the progression of his starts (click the date link to see that game's boxscore and recap):
2/28 1.2 4 3 3 1 2 0 16.20
3/4 3.0 4 1 1 0 3 1 7.71
3/9 4.0 0 0 0 1 3 0 4.15
3/14 5.0 3 0 0 1 6 0 2.63
3/19 5.2 5 1 1 1 7 1 2.33
3/24 6.0 1 0 0 1 7 0 1.78

The first outing wasn't very good, but since then Maine has been untouchable, allowing just two runs in 23.2 innings while striking out 26 and allowing just four walks. It's only spring training and most of his starts have come against something less potent than the opposing team's projecting Opening Day lineup, but you can't argue with the results. The strikeout rate has been off the charts, but the razor-thin walk rate is what excites me the most. I have very high expectations for Maine this season, and his success this season is of even greater import if we consider that Oliver Perez will probably be gone next season, and Pedro might go with him (though likely not to the same place; just away).*

*Neither of these are foregone conclusions; Pedro has indicated that he would like to stay with the Mets if they are interested, and that he probably won't negotiate a new deal until after the season, but considering his health and his advancing age, he will probably be looking for one last multi-year deal, and I don't know if the Mets are willing to go to three (or four?) years to keep Pedro in Queens until he retires. Of the two, Perez is probably the most likely goner, as his age (26) and agent (Scott Boras) mean he could fetch big money for big years on the free agent market, and the Mets may be better off spending those clams elsewhere.

Bullet my Tuesday...

  • Nice fantasy rundown of five interesting Mets players over at Fantasy Baseball Generals.
  • At No Bias Baseball, Jim Callis of Baseball America stops by for an interview. You can listen to the audio via the prior link, and around the 16 minute mark Callis talks about the Johan Santana trade and indicates that it was his favorite move of the winter.
  • The Hardball Times continues their "Five Questions" series with a five-spot on the Mets by John Walsh. While you're at it, check out their Phillies (John Brattain) and Braves (Mac Thomason) while you're at it.
  • We've got more THT love for ya, as they posted their updated projections for the upcoming season last week, and they've got the Mets going 99-63 with 836 runs scored and just 677 runs allowed. The projected standings are the average results from 100 iterations simulating the 2008 season, so this wasn't just a statistical oddity. I figure the Mets are a 90-95 win team, but if things break right for them they could push the cusp of the century mark before the year is through.
  • Someone posted a wonderful diary at Lone Star Ball about the recent Dodgers/Padres exhibition game in China. Remarkable stuff.
  • Not baseball related, but Shad Smith, a Mixed Martial Artist, recently revealed that he is homosexual, making him the first ever openly gay male fighter in MMA. Kudos to Smith for having the moxie to make this revelation while he is still an active participant in his sport, and here's hoping that his actions give other gay athletes the courage to do the same in their respective sports.