The John Danks Theory and Scott Maine
At first glance, Cubs reliever Scott Maine is your typical LOOGY (lefty one out guy). He pitches left-handed. He throws a slider. His fastball sits in the low-90’s. He’s never pitched as a starting pitcher. The funny thing is that he is far from a lefty specialist, because he’s much better pitching against righties – a rare situation of a reverse platoon split, thanks in large part to one pitch.
Four days after Mike Quade took the reigns over as manager, the Cubs called up Scott Maine, who I thought would be more of a left-handed specialist who could get a righty out when absolutely needed. When you glance over Maine’s 2010 stats, you notice one peculiar thing about him – he’s thrown more against right-handed batters than lefties, an 11:2 inning ratio.
Why? As a left-handed reliever, Maine would be expected to pitch more against like-handed batters in order to take profit of his platoon advantage. The answer is simple. Mike Quade recognized his best pitch as the change-up, not the slider, and put him in situations that would best benefit his use of that off-speed pitch – against right-handers.
This concept is certainly not new. The Tampa Bay Rays had two perfect games thrown against them, Mark Buehrle and Dallas Braden, both left-handed, quality change-up pitchers. After Braden’s perfect game in 2010 and a dominant showing by Chicago White Sox lefty starter John Danks, Rays manager Joe Maddon trumped the common thought of loading his lineup of right-handed batters against the left-handed starter, and put together a lefty-heavy batting order to take away their best pitch, the change-up. This was henceforth known as the John Danks Theory.
Basically what we saw from from Mike Quade’s use of Scott Maine was the pitcher version of the Danks Theory, using him primarily against right-handed batters. His movement on his change-up, both horizontal and vertical, are well above-average. Maine’s pitch values reflect this, as his change-up was worth 3.48 runs per 100 pitches, better than that of Seattle’s Felix Hernandez, Milwaukee’s Shaun Marcum, and Danks. Maine’s use of his change-up was also displayed in his heat maps:
Maine’s Change-up use vs. Lefties:Righties
Now, to be certain, Maine has not pitched for a sample size large enough to make this theory more substantial. If Maine makes the major league roster, he could provide quite a bit more value over others thought to make the team over him such as Jeff Samardzija, Justin Berg, Jeff Stevens, or John Grabow.
I would like to see him with the parent club not only to see the Cubs gain more value out of the Aaron Heilman trade, but also to see whether Mike Quade uses Maine similarly over a larger sample, and if his success carries over.