While he’s not the high-level starter many have been clamoring for the past few weeks, the Braves took a low-risk approach to improving the team by trading for Paul Maholm to improve the rotation. Probably best slotted as a #3/4 pitcher, Maholm should bring, at worst, a consistent chance to win each time he steps on the mound. Knowing that Jair Jurrjens has less of a chance to start for Atlanta should make every Braves fan feel better.
Fred took a quick look at Maholm this morning, but I will dive headfirst into the stats, finding generalities and intricacies. Overall, Maholm has been an average starter in his career, sporting an ERA- of 103 and a FIP- of 100. His 62-79 career record is a direct result of playing for really bad Pirate teams. Maholm is essentially the anti-Tommy Hanson, only allowing 66 steals off of him in over 1200 career innings.
As you can see, his repertoire consists of six distinct pitches: 4-seam, sinker, cutter, slider, change, and curve, all thrown at least 10% of the time. Both his fastballs sit around 88, topping out at 90. The slider is his closest thing to a put-away pitch, despite its average movement at 79-83. His curveball is a lollipop, rolling in anywhere from 70-76. His cutter and changeup are used almost exclusively against RHH, with the cutter at 82-86 and straight change at 80-84.
As expected from the figures above, strikeouts are tough to come by for Maholm. His 16% K rate is the closest he’s been to league average since ’08, though still over 3% from that mark. His slider and curve have been able to generate 25-30% misses on swings, while his overall miss% (1-Contact%) is at 16%. He also has a large platoon split for his career, striking out 22% of LHB and 13% RHB. This trend has been bucked so far this year, 17% vs. RHB and 16% vs. LHB.
His walk rate has consistently grouped around 7% the past few years, below the league averages of 8-9% throughout that span. It’s not enough to completely offset the low K rates, but it is an improvement from the double-digit BB rate his rookie season. There is a small platoon split here also, 6.5% vs. LHB and 7.5% vs. RHB, after taking out IBB.
Maholm is also above average at keeping the ball in the park. His 50% GB rate is over 5% above league average, enough to offset his lower K rate. His HR/9 has risen a bit this year, mostly due to a change in home ballpark. As you can see below, there is a lot of room in left and left-center at PNC that is not there at Wrigley, while Atlanta is much closer to Pittsburgh’s dimensions. If he has the same luck keeping balls out of the seats, the great Braves OF defense will track down more mistakes than most teams.
Overall, Maholm is something like a Mark Buehrle with a few more walks and a bit more velocity. He keeps defenses on their toes, especially the infield. His diversifying repertoire is helping him get more righties out this year, making it a bit tougher to stack the lineup. An average pitcher is likely better than a tiring Randall Delgado and light years beyond a cashed Jurrjens, so the Braves should not be lamenting missing out on an ace when most anything would be an improvement.