|Paul Maholm||SP||4.48 ERA, 177 IP, 114 K, 72 BB||4.63 ERA, 177 IP, 140 K, 62 BB||5.02 ERA, 177.7 IP, 105 K, 49 BB|
A strange year for Maholm. Obviously, everybody seemed to know how many innings he'd pitch, but beyond that, it would've been hard to predict that he'd improve his control so much while his ERA went up. A lot of us were expecting a spike in his strikeout rate that never came, but that doesn't really surprise me; Maholm's just not that kind of pitcher, and if he can continue to prevent walks the way he did last year, he can still be plenty successful.
As a matter of fact, I'm going to go ahead and say that 2007 was an encouraging year for Maholm. He had a better ERA in 2006, but all the walks he allowed (81 in 176 innings) were problematic. He has a decent breaking ball but not a great fastball, so he's probably never going to be much of a strikeout pitcher. As such, his number one goal to ensure long-term success this year should've been to decrease his walks, and that's exactly what he did, without seeing much of a change in his strikeouts, homers allowed, or groundball/flyball ratio.
The tricky thing with Maholm is remembering that he's a low-upside player in any case, so we have to be happy with small victories. For the second consecutive year, he was better in the second half than in the first, or at least until he completely fell apart in September. Just as the Pirates were wise not to bail on him after he stunk in April and May, it's probably also wise not to expect Maholm to put up a yearly ERA in the threes like he did in June, July and August. He's not a great pitcher, so if he ever does that over the course of a year, it'll probably be completely by chance. But if he prevents free passes in the future the way he did last year, he can be an effective third starter for years to come.