It was a mixed bag for John Maine tonight, and while I might typically dwell on the six walks -- for good reason -- I'm instead going to be a tad more sanguine and focus on the seven strikeouts and, more specifically, the strikes that Maine threw overall. All strikes are not created equal; swinging strikes are preferable to called strikes and foul balls, not so much on a pitch-by-pitch basis (swinging strikes are about equal to called strikes in that regard), but in the larger sense that swinging strikes might indicate pitcher dominance while called strikes are perhaps more indicative of deceptiveness.
Maine recorded 46 strikes (not counting balls in play). Here's the breakdown (% of total pitches):
Swinging strikes: 18 (17.8%)
Called strikes: 12 (11.9%)
Foul balls: 16 (15.8%)
Maine's best year as a big leaguer was 2007 when his swinging strike percentage (SwStr%) was 10.1%, not coincidentally the best of his career. That rate dropped to 9.3% in 2008 and before Monday's start was 8.7% for 2009. Obviously, the 17.8% he notched last night is far better than any of those, and is almost certainly unsustainable over a long enough stretch of appearances. Nevertheless, it's a great sign for Maine, who sported an overpowering fastball against the Braves. Of the 18 swinging strikes, 16 were on fastballs and two were on sliders.
The corollary to SwStr% for Maine is his foul ball rate (Foul%), which has hovered around the 20% mark for much of his career. Last night that number was quite a bit lower at 15.8%. These numbers are slightly skewed because of how many balls (non-strikes) Maine threw, but the truth is that he didn't really throw an unusually high percentage of balls out of the strike zone. His ball rate was 41.6%, which is about 10% higher than his 2008 mark of 37.0%.
SwStr% and, at least for Maine, Foul%, will be important markers to follow as the season progresses. While it's interesting to see how these rates affect the results of an individual game, they become far more meaningful when we look at the collective results of a series of games. Maine has been a little rough to start the season, particularly with his command, but perhaps his dominance with the fastball last night is a sign of good things to come.
Big winners: Carlos Beltran, +34.9% WPA, David Wright, +26.2% WPA
Big losers: Ryan Church, -7.9% WPA, Luis Castillo, -6.7% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Wright two-run homer in sixth, +25.5% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Larry solo homer in eighth, -8.1% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: +14.1% WPA
Total batter WPA: +35.9% WPA
GWRBI!: Carlos Beltran
Nice job by DevonEdwards; his effort in the game thread embiggens us all.
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