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.
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.