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John Maine: What Can We Expect In 2008

What spurred on this look at starting pitchers who struck out 175 batters plus or minus 15 was a curiosity about what to expect from New York Mets' left-hander Oliver Perez. A realization that Perez' fantasy projections really revolve around whether or not he will slip back to his 2005 & 2006 forms rather than build on 2007 in an effort to return to his 2004 form had me switch to a focus on his right-handed teammate John Maine.

Maine came over from the Baltimore Orioles in the Winter of 2005-06 in the Kris Benson swap. He showed some a lot of promis with the Mets by posting a 3.60 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 71 Ks in 90 innings of work. He did not disappoint in 2007 by striking out 180 in 191 innings with 15 victories.

Those encouraging efforts have Maine ranked 34th amongst starting pitchers in Mock Draft Central's ADPs. He is being taken ahead of Yankees' consecutive 19-game winner, Chein Ming Wang, and right after $55MM man A.J. Burnett. That company indicates Maine has arrived a legitimate fantasy pitcher.

With that, I wanted to see what could be expected from pitchers who performed similarly based on strikeout totals. A sort of 2007 pitchers who struck out 160-190 turned up most of the 7th-12th round starting pitchers with the expection of the always-disappointing Daniel Cabrera.

Webb Brandon 17 0 188 3.01 1.18
Escobar Kelvim 18 0 160 3.4 1.27
Lackey John 19 0 179 3.09 1.21
Young Chris 9 0 167 3.12 1.10
Zambrano Carlos 18 0 177 3.95 1.33
Hamels Cole 15 0 177 3.39 1.12
Burnett A.J. 10 0 176 3.75 1.19
Verlander Justin 18 0 183 3.66 1.23
Cain Matt 7 0 163 3.65 1.26
Hernandez Felix 14 0 165 3.92 1.38
Shields James 12 0 184 3.85 1.11
Maine John 15 0 180 3.91 1.27
Hill Rich 11 0 183 3.92 1.20
Lilly Ted 15 0 174 3.83 1.14
Perez Oliver 15 0 174 3.56 1.31
Snell Ian 9 0 177 3.76 1.33
Cabrera Daniel 9 0 168 5.6 1.53
Francis Jeff 17 0 165 4.22 1.38

To get an idea what Maine could be expected to do, I used the same criteria for 2006 and 2005 and looked at those pitchers' next year peformance, and I was worried. In 2006, 18 of the 27 pitchers who struck out between 160 and 190 hitters had fewer Ks in 2007. In 2005, 11 of 18 had fewer Ks in 2006. For those too lazy to calculate, that is 64.4% of pitchers who strike out between 160 and 190 hitters the season before will fail to match that total the following year.

I was incredulous. These are the types of starting pitchers many saavy fantasy experts have in mind when advising fantasy players to pass on the Johan Santana's and Jake Peavy's of the fantasy baseball world in the early rounds. While I don't necessarily adhere to that advice, I do not like taking pitchers early because I can't get a solid hold on their expected performances.

To try to soothe that dissonance, I noted that five of the 27 from the 2006 season leapt beyond 190 Ks in 2007 - Erik Bedard, Dan Haren, Scott Kazmir, C.C.Sabathia, and Javier Vazquez. Bedard, Kazmir and Sabathia surpassed that golden 200K barrier. The 2005 season saw just two of the 18 surpass the 190K mark in 2006, and both topped 200Ks - Aaron Harang and John Smoltz.

That helped a bit. 200K pitchers are fantasy gold when taken three to ten rounds later than they would have been if they had accomplished that feat the season prior. With any 160-190K pitcher, there is a 15.6% chance he blossoms into fantasy gold.

Finally, I did a simple average calculation for strikouts the following season for the group. This jibed with the more negative figures. In both follow-up seasons, the average Ks for the group dropped from 173 in each season to 145 and 147.

Unfortunately, this analysis doesn't bode well for the likelihood that John Maine will be better than 180 Ks in 2008. However, it has opened another avenue of inquiry to see if 175K pitchers can be identified in another way.

The seasons preceding the 2007 and 2006 ones (2006 and 2005 respectively) each had average strikeouts of 140 and 145. Time to go look at that group of pitchers!