Saturday, July 31, 2010

Misjudging Paul Maholm's Value

At the trade deadline the biggest problem is that everyone, from General Managers to fans, generally overvalues his own assets. General managers want to hit a home run in most trades and never want to get taken. As a result there are many more rumors than actual deals. Fans are told about their team's prospects from the day they are signed, follow them for years. When one is traded, the fan often get irrationally upset. Conversely, proven major leaguers have tangible value to the average fan. If that fan's team trades a veteran and gets back a prospect the fan has never seen or heard of, he'll think it's as a salary dump or that his team's GM got duped.

While the above scenarios certainly do occur, it's the irrational arguments and player evaluations that really kill me. I don't mean to be on the Post-Gazette's writers, but Bob Smizik's article yesterday touched a nerve and now it's Dejan Kovacevic. This morning in PG+ he wrote about a possible trade of Paul Maholm:
The rest of this season is not important in terms of the standings, but advancing the cause of the younger position players is critically important. They have nothing to gain from the brains-beaten-in scenario, not collectively or individually. At the same time, they have everything to gain from doing some kind of winning.

Trust me on the latter. I have spent a fair amount of time with the three main kids on this trip, and these guys love it when the Pirates win, hate it when they lose.
First, he's right about the rest of the season not being about the standings, but about the development of the young guys. I think we all agree on that. I'm not sure what "advancing the cause of the younger position players" means, but I'll assume it's a good thing. But, how exactly is a Paul Maholm going to effect that? Let's take a look.

In Maholm's last nine starts the team is 2-7 and he is 2-5. Included in his last seven starts are these three outings:

1 IP, 7 hits, 7 runs, 5 earned, 4 BB, 0 K  Final Score: 13-3

3 IP, 10 hits, 8 runs, 7 earned, 2 BB, 1 K  Final Score: 12-4

5.1 IP, 11 hits, 8 runs, 8 earned, 3 BB, 3 K  Final Score: 9-3

Talk about about getting your brains beaten in. All three games were basically over by the third inning. When Kovacevic waxes poetic about stuff like this or veteran leadership or other things that don't align with actual performance, it drives me crazy. Maholm is going to make 12 more starts this year. He may make a marginal difference of one win, maybe two, versus the pitchers the Pirates would use to fill those starts if Maholm is traded. I think it's better to stay with the facts and not some vision of Paul Maholm, dominating pitcher.

Kovacevic writes that a Maholm trade "has to bring the Pirates some pitching back." This is not true.  As always the team should seek the best and highest value return possible, pitching or not. Yes the 2011 starting rotation is a huge issue. A trade of Paul Maholm isn't going to solve it and may in the short-term make it even more of an issue. But let's be clear about one thing, Paul Maholm's impact in "advancing the cause of the younger position players" the rest of this season is going to be the same whether he's wearing a Pirates uniform or someone else's.

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