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Thoughts on Tonight's Game, Featuring Ryan Doumit and Paul Maholm

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-P- The Pirates had Ryan Doumit take some grounders at first before tonight's game. If Doumit is eventually given much time at first, this will have the convenient result of screwing over Craig Wilson yet again while preparing Doumit to be screwed over in the future.

Doumit has never played a game at first in the major leagues. The Bucs did feel confident enough with his defense in the outfield to use him there in a few games last year. If the Pirates really do feel the need to play Doumit somewhere other than catcher, why not continue letting him play rightfield? (And please, nobody remind me in the comments about Jeromy Burnitz' salary. You'd be right if you did, but it's too despressing to think about.) They have a struggling player there. At first, they have a guy who can and does hit.

-P- I root for Paul Maholm the way I root for any Pirate, but there are two reasons why I'm not much of a fan of his. The first is that I think he was called up before he was ready, and little he has done this year, tonight's start aside, convinces me that he actually is ready.

The second reason is that he's so boring to watch. Vanilla fastball, vanilla breaking ball, repeat, repeat, repeat. In both this year and last, he's done an exceptional job keeping the ball on the ground. But there's still a reason he has a 5.08 ERA this year, I think - he lacks an out pitch. He does a reasonable job keeping the ball in the zone and seems to be a reasonably intelligent pitcher (he seemed to save his best stuff tonight for the times he had men on base, dialing his fastball up to 93 to strike out Cliff Floyd and strand David Wright at third in the fifth), but he has little to make hitters swing and miss.

I'm certainly not suggesting that Maholm needs to be a power pitcher to succeed - obviously, pitchers like Greg Maddux and tonight's opponent, Tom Glavine, have done very well without blazing stuff. But even those guys could strike batters out sometimes. After tonight's start, Maholm has 15 strikeouts and 17 walks this season. For his career, he has 41 strikeouts and 34 walks. There isn't a starter in baseball who can succeed with a ratio like that. No amount of sink or moxie can help you if you don't strike out many more guys than you walk. Even extreme groundball guys like Jake Westbrook, Derek Lowe and Brandon Webb post much better ratios than Maholm's. I think Maholm may have to adjust a little, or he's not going to make it - if he could make one of his pitches, like his curve or his changeup, just a little bit nastier, it might do wonders.

The Pirates' Win Probability (Source: FanGraphs)