Archive for Paul Maholm
Welcome to the first mailbag of 2012. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box on the sidebar to send in your questions throughout the week.
Mick asks: What do you think of Paul Maholm on a one-year deal? Or would he really be an improvement over anyone the Yankees already have?
I like Maholm more than most, but he’s still not very good. Last year’s shiny ERA (3.66) hides the fact that he allows a substantial number of balls to be put in play (just 5.55 K/9 and 14.3 K% career). He does get grounders (49.9% last year, 52.3% career), but you’ve got to miss bats in the AL East to be anything more than back of the rotation batting practice. As I said back in November, the Yankees shouldn’t count on him to be anything more than that back-end guy, which makes him no upgrade over what they currently have.
At this point, if the Yankees aren’t going to bring in someone clearly better than Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia, they’re just wasting their time. The A.J. Burnett, Phil Hughes, Hector Noesi, Adam Warren, and David Phelps group is more than capable of filling those fourth and fifth spots.
Will asks: Cashman got lucky with some scrap heap signings last year. I think he tries to go for it again by offering declining pitchers a one year minor league deal for the same amount Garcia and Colon got and see what they have. Of all the scrap heap pitchers, who would you take a run at? I would offer a deal to Brad Penny and Chris Young.
Just like I said above, they’re not making themselves any better by taking on more scrap heap guys. That said, there are a few interesting ones out there. I don’t know what the status of Young’s shoulder is (he had another major surgery last summer), but he’s one of the most extreme fly ball pitchers in the game (career 28.2% grounders). That combined with a nothing fastball is a bad mix for Yankee Stadium, so I’d steer clear of him.
Penny is slightly more interesting, but he’s been an above average pitcher just once in the last four years (2009). He’s got a 4.79 K/9 (12.2 K%) and a 46.4% ground ball rate during that time, which is scary. He’s also going to be 34 in May, so it’s not like he’s young anymore either. I’d take him over Young, but I wouldn’t be blowing up his agent’s phone to sign him.
Among the unsigned starters, I guess Maholm and Rich Harden interest me the most. When you’re talking about guys on one-year deals at a relatively low salary, Colon looks like the best of the bunch, and we saw how effective he could be in the first five months of last season. The only question is his health; did he start to break down late in the season, or just tire from a) the long layoff, and/or b) the long season after pitching so much in winter ball? If his shoulder is s0und, I’d go with the devil I know over the devil I don’t.
David asks: I was reading about Vicente Padilla how well he is doing now in his native Nicaraguan league. Can he be a option for the rotation?
Padilla, now 34, is apparently throwing 95 down in Nicaragua this offseason, a couple months after he had surgery to repair a nerve problem in his elbow and a disc problem in his neck. Other than a 16 start, 95 IP cameo with the Dodgers in 2010, he’s been an effective starter once in the last five years (2009). He’s slightly more interesting in relief, where he could just air it out for an inning or two, but I wouldn’t count on him in the rotation.
Anyway, there’s not point in exploring Padilla as option because he and Mark Teixeira hate each other. It dates back to even before their days as teammates with the Rangers, and back in 2009 we saw that mini-blowup after Padilla hit Tex twice in a game. If Padilla was a difference maker, then maybe you try to work something out with Tex’s blessing. He’s not though, so just move along.
Mark asks: With an apparently short list of interested suitors, if the Yanks could get Kosuke Fukudome for 1 year/$2-3 million – would you bite as a 5th OF/DH option? Have to like that OBP.
When would he play? The DH thing isn’t an option because Jesus Montero needs to get as many plate appearances as possible. Whenever he does sit, it’ll likely be so Alex Rodriguez or Derek Jeter or even Robinson Cano get a day off from the field. I know Fukudome has a nice OBP (.361 career), but he has no power (career .139 ISO), doesn’t steal bases (29-for-57 career, or 50.9%), and the advanced metrics haven’t liked his defense in a few years now. He’s not worth taking plate appearances away from Montero. The Yankees have a fine fifth outfielder in Chris Dickerson, who can hit righties (career .341 wOBA), steal some bases (24-for-32 career in MLB), and play solid defense in all three outfield spots. His skill set fits the roster better.
Tucker asks: When was the last time the Yankees traded a major leaguer for a prospect(s)?
The Yankees are never really sellers, so they haven’t traded too many established big leaguers away for prospects in recent years. The last time it happened was after the 2006 season, when they sent Gary Sheffield to the Tigers for Kevin Whelan, Humberto Sanchez, and Anthony Claggett. The Randy Johnson trade kinda sorta counts, since the return was highlighted by the three prospects (Ross Ohlendorf, Stephen Jackson, Alberto Gonzalez) they received and not the middle reliever (Luis Vizcaino). Tony Womack for Ben Himes and Kevin Howard is really pushed the limits of “prospect;” that was a clearly a “get rid of Womack at all costs I don’t care what we get back” type of move. Other than that, there haven’t been too many big leaguer-for-prospect moves in Yankeeland over the last decade or so.
The offseason is officially underway, so the Yankees search for starting pitching can begin in earnest. Getting CC Sabathia back under contract was just the very first order of business; we know the search doesn’t end there. Everyone knows about C.J. Wilson and Yu Darvish, but they aren’t the only names out there this winter.
The Pirates officially declined Paul Maholm’s 2012 option yesterday, paying him a $750k buyout rather than keep him at $9.75M salary next season. The 29-year-old left-hander hits the market (as an unranked free agent) after posting career bests in ERA (3.66) and FIP (3.78) this past season, but the NL Central is a much different animal than the AL East. Let’s take a deeper look to see if he has anything to offer the Yankees, starting with the cons…
- Maholm simply doesn’t miss bats, never has and probably never will. His best strikeout season came back in 2008, when he whiffed 6.02 per nine while getting a swing-and-miss 8.4% of the time. His whiff rate has declined every year since then, bottoming out at 5.7% in 2011. Over the last three seasons his strikeout rate is an underwhelming 5.28 K/9 (5.38 in 2011).
- Although he’s thrown 175+ IP in five of the last six years, his innings total has gone down every year since peaking at 206.1 IP in 2008. Maholm has only been on the DL once in his career, this past season when a shoulder strain ended his season in late-August. Dr. James Andrews found no structural damage, and the southpaw recently announced on Twitter that he’s been cleared for workouts.
- It didn’t show up too much this year, but Maholm has always had a rather prominent platoon split. Over the last three years, he’s held lefties to a .268 wOBA with a 3.2 K/BB ratio and 53.1% grounders while righties have tagged him for a .345 wOBA with a 1.6 K/BB and 50.7% grounders.
- Maholm’s performance away from the basically neutral PNC Park has been pretty bad through his career, and he’s gotten smacked around by AL lineups during interleague play.
- He lacks the whiffs, but Maholm does make up for it with control and ground balls. His unintentional walk rate has held at a steady 2.82 uIBB/9 throughout his career (2.66 last three years, 2.44 in 2011), and his 52.3% ground ball rate has been consistent as well (51.1% last three years, 49.9% in 2011). Because he allows so many balls in play, Maholm will always be at the mercy of his defense.
- The ground ball rate has helped Maholm keep the ball in the park (0.66 HR/9 and 7.5% HR/FB over the last three years), but it’s interesting that his HR/FB rate went from 12%+ in 2006-2008 to 7.5% from 2009-2011. The improvement coincides with the increased use of his low-80′s slider (from ~4% to ~13%) and high-80′s two-seamer (~4% to ~35%). I suspect that’s more than just a coincidence.
- Maholm also throws a high-80′s four-seamer, a low-80′s changeup, and a low-70′s curveball. He’s a true five-pitch guy, using each offering at least 10% of the time in recent years. He also has a solid pickoff move, allowing just 30 steals against nine pickoffs in the last three seasons.
Pittsburgh’s decision to decline the option tells you that even a pitching starved team doesn’t value Maholm’s expected 2012 performance at a net price of $9M (they were paying him $750k one way or the other). The Yankees shouldn’t expect him to be anything more than a depth starter, the number five guy or maybe even a pen arm. There’s no reason for Maholm to accept a reduced role like that, someone in this league will guarantee him a rotation spot and that’s where he should go. He’s interesting because he’s reasonably young and left-handed, but it’s hard to envision Maholm having much of an impact on a contending AL team.
Six questions today, covering topics from the farm system to potential draft picks to trade targets. The Submit A Tip box in the sidebar is the way to go if you want to send in any questions…
Matthew asks: The success of Al Aceves in Boston got me thinking about how he got away from the Yanks. Shouldn’t he have had an option left? Did the Yanks let him go simply for the sake of a 40-man slot? Thanks!
Aceves had two minor league options left. He’s been good but not great for the Red Sox (2.60 ERA but a 5.34 FIP), though the longer he stays healthy, the more his non-tender looks like a total blunder on the Yankees’ part. Maybe the medical staff didn’t evaluate his back properly, maybe Brian Cashman misread his willingness to sign a minor league deal, maybe Randy Levine stepped in, we don’t know. I do know that it wasn’t a 40-man roster issue, he was non-tendered in early December when the Yankees had something like eight spots open.
Mo asks: What would you rate the farm system up to this point this year? I feel like its sucking in comparison to last year’s great run…
It was going to be tough to repeat last year’s success, almost everything went right in 2010. This year is much more normal, in that some things are going right (Ramon Flores, pre-brawl Slade Heathcott, J.R. Murphy), some are going wrong (Adam Warren‘s walks, Jesus Montero‘s lack of power, High-A Tampa’s everything), and some guys have gotten hurt (Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances with the blisters, Graham Stoneburner’s neck). It feels like a down year compared to last season, but there isn’t an overwhelming amount of injuries or guys have down years, so overall it’s been pretty positive. An average year, really. That said, we’re seven weeks into the minor league season, so it’s tough for things to change much in one direction or the other. It’s still a top ten system.
Drew asks: Now that Kanekoa Texeira has been DFA’d, I think the Yankees should pick him up, I know the K/9 is down and his BB/9 are up but man does he throw hard. I think Rothschild could fix him. Agree?
Heh, to say the strikeout rate is down would be an understatement, he hasn’t struck out any of 35 batters he’s faced this season. Texeira doesn’t throw that hard, PitchFX has him at 89-91 this year, which is down a little from last year. I’m sure most of you remember that he was in the Yankees organization for a while, coming over from the White Sox in the Nick Swisher trade before the Mariners took him in last year’s Rule 5 Draft. He ended up in Kansas City on a waiver claim last summer.
Anyway, he’s a sinker-slider guy that gets ground balls but not an absurd amount of them (51.9% career), and lefties hit him pretty hard. Texeira’s a fine up-and-down kind of reliever, better use of a 40-man roster spot than Amaury Sanit, but he’s not much more than that. Maybe Rothschild could fix him, but I’m not sure what he could do.
Matt asks: I was just wondering what you thought about Kyle Winkler. Most mock drafts and draft boards I’ve seen him at about 40, and he is probably rising. He’s so close to the Yankees that it’s possible that he drops, so what do you think?
Winkler, a right-hander at Texas Christian, has stepped in as the staff ace following Matt Purke’s struggles, and has struck out 96 while walking just 13 in 85.1 IP this year (1.48 ERA). The stuff is legit (sits 91-94 with the fastball, low-80′s slider, and a changeup) and he commands it well, and pretty much the only knock is his size (listed at 5-foot-11, 205 lbs.). Winkler is expected to go somewhere in the sandwich round or early second round, and he seems like Damon Oppenheimer’s kind of guy because he’s got command and pitched well in the Cape Cod League a few summers ago. He wouldn’t be a bad pick for the Yankees with their first selection (51st overall), but I’m not much of a college righty kind of guy unless we’re talking about the truly elite.
Matt asks: Andrew Brackman is not off to the best of starts down in Scranton. He’s already 25 so isn’t this almost a make or break year for him? Can you see him in a relief role?
I wouldn’t call it a make or break year, not at all. At the end of the day, who really cares how old a guy is when he debuts as long as he’s contributing positively? They don’t check I.D.’s on the mound, as the old saying goes. Brackman’s struggled this year (6.00 FIP), no doubt about it, but if he keeps struggling then they can option him back to the minors next year and keep working on it. He won’t run out of options until 2013 at the earliest. There would have be a lot of improvement over the next month or two for Brackman to be a relief option at this point, he’s got to show he’s move beyond the struggles and there are also some guys ahead of him on the relief pitcher call-up depth chart.
Bryan asks: What are the chances the Yanks pursue Paul Maholm if the Pirates make him available? He’s got a pretty good ground ball rate at 52% and also has a good xFIP at 3.77. Would he be worth a crack for the right price?
I’ve never really been much of a Maholm fan at all because he doesn’t miss any bats (6.23 K/9 this year is a career high by a decent margin) and his walk rates aren’t anything special (3.67 BB/9 this year, 3.08 career). Starting pitchers with sub-2.00 K/BB ratios in the American League have a hard time being anything better than average, historically. Then again, average doesn’t mean bad and he could probably help the Yankees. Maholm is in the last year of his contract ($5.75M salary with a $9.75M option for 2012 will be bought out for $750,000) and could give some innings, but I would hope the Yankees don’t bend over backwards to acquire him. They need another high-end pitcher, not another back-end filler type.
Also, while ground balls are preferable because they don’t turn into homeruns, we have to remember that the Yankees’ infield defense isn’t all that great. Mark Teixeira is fine at first, but Derek Jeter has the range of a potted plant, Alex Rodriguez is comfortably below average, and Robinson Cano has been playing with his defensive head up his ass this year.
Stephan asks: Tim Norton-seems like he’s legit. I’ve seen a little about him and his rehab around the web, but what are your thoughts? He’s gotta get a promotion soon(ish) right?
He’s legit in that he’s a potential relief option, but he’s no future closer or anything great like that. Norton’s an older guy (turns 28 on Monday) that was slowed by some major arm issues, but he’s obviously healthy now and doing a fine job of missing bats (14.5 K/9) and throwing strikes (2.9 BB/9) in Double-A. NoMaas interviewed him a few weeks ago, and I recommend reading for info about his stuff, back story, etc. It’s going to take more than 51 dominant innings (dating back to last season) for Norton to really start forcing the organization’s hand, but he’s definitely put himself on the map. A promotion to Triple-A will certainly be in the cards at some point this summer.