2012 Review: Paul Maholm

2012 was a year of change for Paul Maholm, as his signing with the Cubs marked his first professional venture outside of Pittsburgh.  After a good July, the Braves traded injured prospect Arodys Vizcaino for the lefty starter.  Down the stretch, Maholm pitched well, giving the Braves some much-needed stability in the rotation.

Maholm’s biggest strength is being able to keep the ball on the ground.  His 54% groundball rate with the Braves was about 10% above the league average.  Unfortunately, like Jonny Venters, an inordinate amount of his flyballs went out of the park, as 8 of the 44 flyballs were homers, about three more than expected.  This is why his xFIP was half a run lower than his FIP.  He also allowed over 24% line drives, which is about 4% above average, but his BABIP did not jump.

Oct. 1, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Paul Maholm (17) pitches against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the seventh inning at PNC Park. The Pittsburgh Pirates won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE

He also has very good control, as his walk rate of 6.7% was right around his previous marks.  He was a bit less aggressive in the zone after coming over to Atlanta, but his walk rate did not suffer.  He did throw strike one 65% of the time as a Brave, higher than his Cub total.  His cutter was a strike most often, while his changeup was a ball most often.

Maholm’s usual weakness was actually a nice surprise at the end of the season.  His 20.9% K rate as a Braves was way higher than any other full season, and his Contact% dropped to correlate with the trend.  His slider is his toughest pitch to hit, as its whiff% was around 35%, while his curveball was just shy of 30%.  I don’t expect a 20%+ rate next year, but if he can keep it near 18%, it will be a nice improvement over his 12-14% marks the previous three seasons.

Maholm did not have much of a platoon split, though his peripherals were much better against lefties.  A .331 BABIP counteracted a 3.09 FIP, leaving both sides hitting for a .310 wOBA.  His home results were much better, though most of that was BABIP-related.  Maholm did a good job limiting damage when he got behind in the count, but couldn’t put away hitters, struggling after getting two strikes on a hitter.  He also limits the run game, as he only allowed one stolen base in his 11 Atlanta starts.

Maholm is not much of a threat at the plate, as his .108 career average and 50% K rate would indicate.  He also isn’t a great bunter, only getting the sacrifice bunt down 50% of his attempts, about 18% below league average.  You don’t expect much offense out of a pitcher, but the low bunt rate compounds his lack of hitting skill.

Maholm had his $6.5M option exercised this week, leaving him as a relatively cheap starter.  There has been some talk about him getting traded, but with Brandon Beachy out for most of the first half of next season, I would think the lefty would be sticking around.  If some of the strikeouts can stick around, he should post a high-3′s ERA, which is worth about 2.5-3 WAR over a full season, a good piece for a good price.

Topics: Atlanta Braves, FanSided, Paul Maholm

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