A preview of the 2008 Mets, presented in the expected batting order, followed by pitching rotation, followed by impact bullpen/bench players. Today we focus on starting pitchers John Maine and Oliver Perez.
MAINE: 15-10, 3.91 ERA, 180 K's, 75 walks, 191 IP
PEREZ: 15-10, 3.56 ERA, 174 K's, 79 walks, 177 IP
I think these two merit having a preview written about them together, because I think so much of the Mets' success this year hinges on the two of them performing well. Also, I thought it was eerie how similar their stats were last year.
Bottom line - if the Mets get 30 wins out of these two again, they're not going to miss the playoffs. It just won't happen. The question is, can the Mets get 30 wins out of Maine and Perez?
I think a couple of things are working in the Mets' favor. One is the point I've been beating you over the head with for the past month or so - with the addition of Johan Santana, instead of facing other teams' second and third starters, Maine and Perez will be facing the third and fourth starters, and they are better than those pitchers. There are not many teams who have formidable opponents for Maine and Perez. So call factor one the 'Steve Trachsel Factor' - Maine and Perez will get wins for just showing up. I'm going to go out on a limb and say Oliver Perez leads the league in run support this year.
Another reason you can expect them to do even better than last year is the fact that Brian Schneider is behind the plate. From all I've been hearing about Schneider's ability to handle pitchers, I've really built him up to be some sort of Supercatcher. But he has to be able to help Perez keep his head on straight when he starts to lose his control. And John Maine has shown an incredible ability to focus when the games/season are on the line, so maybe Schneider can force him to think like that on a normal day in July in addition to late September/October.
The last positive I'll list is that there has to be some sort of comfort level for these guys now. Both backed up the promise they showed in the 2006 post-season with very good 2007 seasons. They've proved they belong here, and that they can hold their own. Other than the pressure of pitching every fifth day in the New York spotlight, the pressure's off.
The warning signs are the same they have always been. Can John Maine avoid throwing 100 pitches by the sixth inning? Can Oliver Perez find his release point so he isn't walking 9 batters a game? I think the best thing for each of these guys is that last year, while it was ridiculously successful for both of them, was also a learning experience. They learned on the job, and they didn't suffer for it. That can only lead to a better 2008.
PEREZ ALREADY 1-0: Worth noting - On Friday, Oliver Perez was granted a salary arbitration win, meaning he will earn $6.5 million dollars this year (the club was offering $4.725 million). The odds were stacked against Perez - this was the first salary arbitration hearing the Mets lost since 1992.