Tuesday, the Cubs agreed to a one year deal with former Pittsburgh pitch Paul Maholm that includes a club option. The Pirates were shopping Maholm around earlier in the offseason, but since he had a $10M option, no teams were giving in to the understandably light trade demands. Pittsburgh didn’t pick up his option, and he hit the open market, allowing the Cubs to swoop in and sign the 30 year-old lefty.
Maholm is nothing more than a solid fourth starter on most teams, and he will certainly start for the Cubs, even if the team retains trade candidate Matt Garza. If the Cubs do not trade Garza, a battle for the fifth starter will ensue between starters Chris Volstad and Randy Wells, assuming Travis Wood isn’t abysmal in Spring Training.
As for Maholm, he profiles as the typical finesse lefty–never going over 6.5 K/9, but keeping his BB/9 rates below 3. He throws in the upper 80′s, but exhibits an excellent career ground ball rate of 1.83 GB/FB due to his primary usage of his two-seam fastball.
Early in his career, Maholm gave up about one homer every nine innings he pitched, however with his addition of the two-seamer in 2009, he dropped that number a good chunk to .75 HR/9.
Look at Maholm’s two-seam fastball usage:
Maholm loves to keep his two-seamer away from right-handed batters, and does the same to lefties. The art of “nibbling” is something Maholm is keen to, and obviously he uses his two-seamer more against lefties.
Throwing the first-pitch strike isn’t something Maholm isn’t excellent at (he’s league-average), however the first-pitch strike and getting ahead in the count in general (like so many other pitchers) is critical to Maholm’s success or failure.
Take a look at this graph:
Maholm gets markedly better as he gets ahead in the count, and the more strikes he throws, he can rely on his deception–both natural and through his pitch count–to generate success.
Arguably his best pitch is the change-up, which he uses to keep hitters from sitting on his fastball.
Look at his change-up usage:
Maholm uses his change in the exact same area as his two-seamer to mimic the same pitch. The release point is in the same area as well:
The main difference between his change and his fastballs? About five miles per hour, which is enough to keep hitters off-balance. In fact, there is a good five m.p.h. difference between his next best pitch, his curveball:
Paul Maholm is a quality pitcher–especially for the salary the Cubs are expected to pay for him. In all, the Cubs make a very solid acquisition in signing Maholm, considering he could have costed the team a prospect in the event of a trade.