Could Paul Maholm be a fit in Cincinnati?

Living in Pittsburgh, I have a unique perspective on Paul Maholm.  He is an interesting follow on Twitter @maholm28.  He is a man of character and heart.  His time in Pittsburgh has been difficult.  He is attacked on an almost daily basis by the fans here who blame him for the losses suffered by the team when he pitches.  To stir the pot a bit I thought I would offer a few statistics.

  1. 41 of his 83 career losses came we had had two or fewer runs scored on his behalf.
  2. Pirates gave him 2.91 runs/start.  By comparison Arroyo received 3.94, Bailey received 6.2, Cueto (who was shutout twice) still received 4.96, Leake received 5.13, Volquez earned 3.74, and Wood 4.18.
  3. Maholm allowed .610 Home Runs per 9 innings pitched, good for 7th place in the National League resting between #6 Chris Carpenter at .607 and #8 Tim Lincecum at .622.
  4. 12 of his 26 starts were quality starts, 6 times he pitched at least 7 innings while allowing 2 or less runs.
  5. Only had 6 unearned runs score with him on the mound so defense was solid around him.

Here is a start by start recap of his performance:

In addition, I made a table allowing for comparisons between the 2011 Reds starters and Maholm.

When searching for a ground ball pitcher there are two primary attributes in need:

  1. A high ground ball/fly ball ratio (GB/FB), preferably over 1.0
  2. A low walk total.

With a GB/FB ratio of 1.02, Maholm does an excellent job at the first but struggles with a few too many walks.  The question I would ask here though is whether Paul picked at the corners out of fear of giving up a big inning that the Pirates lackluster offense could not overcome?  This is not a question I can answer but it is an important part of understanding how he would fit in.

One last bit of info I will offer is how Paul has played throughout his career against the Reds in GABP.  I view this information as a worst case scenario for his performance as only the Cardinals (with Albert Pujols) can match the Reds offense so Maholm would generally be facing lesser opponents.

  • He allowed 10 HR in 257 at bats over 11 games/68 IP.
  • Reds batters hit .268 against him.
  • He allowed a .795 OPS
  • His ERA in GABP was 4.37.

Not great numbers but the Reds are a potent offensive team and are especially dangerous to left handed pitchers, unusual in the National League.

In conclusion, if the numbers can be made to work, I view Maholm as a boost to the Reds rotation.  He was shut down at the end of the 2011 season for shoulder fatigue, but based on other information this was more a move to sample what other pitchers had to offer the Pirates, when decisions had been made not to accept his 9.75 million dollar option and just pay the 3 quarter million dollar buyout.  An accompanying thought if Maholm is brought on board, the Reds need to insure that the middle infield is solid.  Brandon Phillips option was accepted locking down 2nd base but the shortstop position remains a challenge.  When a ground ball pitcher like Maholm is on the mound you need the very best shortstop both in fielding competence and range.  Zach Cozart seems to fit that bill and if he heals properly no more need be done.  Cozart’s health would be of primary concern though with Paul Janish presumably as a weak hitting backup.  Maholm’s shortstop backup Ronny Cedeno is also an unrestricted free agent and actually made the nomination for 2011 Gold Glove while sporting a .249 batting average.  He might be worth consideration as well.

Follow me on Twitter as the Free Agent season unfolds @JohnHeitz