Friday, August 9, 2013

What to do with Paul Maholm?

Before his own injury and even before Tim Hudson's horrific injury, there was a decent amount of trade talk on what to do with the starting rotation.  Specifically, what to do with Paul Maholm.  Since starting the year with a tremendous three starts that suddenly had Braves fans wondering if they had a late bloomer in their rotation, Maholm has went downhill.  In 17 starts since opening the year with 20.1 scoreless innings, Maholm has allowed 118 hits and 31 walks in 98 ING (or a 1.52 WHIP).  The team has gone 7-10 in those Maholm starts, including losing their last three with Maholm on the mound.

He left his July 20th start with a left-wrist injury and has only threw two side sessions since.  He's looking at throwing an extended bullpen session today followed by a simulated game and/or rehab assignment.  Braves fans would rather he take as much time as possible to return, but that's not happening.  Fredi Gonzalez previously indicated that there are no plans to demote Maholm to the bullpen, meaning Alex Wood and Brandon Beachy are pitching to remain in the rotation.

To avoid this, some have been creative.  A six-man rotation was discussed.  I was against it last year and according to the pitchers, they were not fond of it either.  It messed with their regular approach and control, plus it made the Braves are too vulnerable to a short day from a starter due to a six-man bullpen.  There have been whispers that trading Maholm right now would be the right approach.  Teams would be anxious to add him to their rotation for the final month, I suppose.  I find that absurd considering how Maholm has pitched and ridiculous to think the Braves would get much, if anything, on the off chance Maholm did make it through waivers.

So, what to do with Maholm?  Well, start him.  Duh.  Listen, if Fredi is not going to entertain the idea of sending him to the bullpen, the Braves have to start him.  And really, his value is that the Braves can afford to run him out there every fifth day and get 100 or so pitches from him, or more with the lead.  They aren't anxious to do that with their young rotation.  At this point, Maholm is a fifth starter who can eat innings.  A free agent at year's end, there is about a 0.00002% chance he returns to the Braves in 2013.  May as well ride his arm.

Provided Atlanta makes it to the playoffs, and that is a HIGH likelihood, Maholm does still have value to the Braves.  Clearly he shouldn't start a game.  However, lefties have struggled this season against Maholm to the tune of .203/.254/.271.  Over his career, that slash becomes .217/.287/.316.  Like most lefties, his K/9 rates go up a lot if a lefty is in the box.

Scott Downs and Luis Avilan, he isn't.  But Maholm does retain power and at this point, it would be foolish to trade him or let him go for nothing. Keep him for depth.  Keep him for lefties in the playoffs.  In mid-August, your only option is to keep him.

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