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Community Projection Review: Paul Maholm

PLAYER POS. COMMUNITY ZiPS ACTUAL
Paul Maholm SP 186 IP, 117 K, 51 BB, 4.42 ERA 175 IP, 108 K, 62 BB, 4.89 ERA 206 IP, 139 K, 63 BB, 3.71 ERA

Paul beat ZiPS, and he beat us too, though not as badly. ZiPS' projection and ours have about the same shape--the community just saw Maholm being a bit better in each category. The most relevant difference between both projections and what actually happened is the increased strikeout rate, which itself followed a dramatic improvement in Maholm's control between 2006 and 2007. His K:BB rate has gone from 1.44 to 2.21 in two years. These improvements bode well for Maholm's future--a groundball pitcher who posts a 2.21 K:BB can be successful indeed. 

Two potential problems. First, there's the fact that the Pirates' young starters can never seem to string together more than a couple good seasons at the time, and at least two seem to need, at all times, to be either posting an ERA above five or rehabbing some kind of shoulder injury, as if the free agency pool in your fantasy league were some kind of fort that Pirates starters were solely responsible for guarding.

Second, there's the fact that, among the 69 pitchers who threw at least 180 innings this year, Maholm finished 19th in batting average on balls in play (BABIP) despite the hideous defense behind him. Some of that surely has to do with Maholm's groundball-producing ways and the fact that batters just didn't hit him particularly hard (knocking line drives only 18.6% of the time, while the league average was around 21%), but still--barring major changes, the Pirates' defense next year will be bad too, and it will probably be less kind to Maholm. 

Still, the improvement in his strikeout rate is real. With the great strides Maholm made in his last two seasons, this year may well turn out to have been his peak, but there's no reason he can't post ERAs in the low fours the next few years. 

Nobody in our projection thought that Maholm would have an ERA below 4.00 this year, so none of the projections are terribly close, but the best guess belonged to nick3849, who had Maholm at 200 IP, 137 K, 48 BB, and a 4.02 ERA.