Cubs Get Deal with Paul Maholm Despite Wrigley Record

After the Chicago Cubs dealt Andrew Cashner to the San Diego Padres, it left the team in a precarious position. The team would have had five established starters going into spring training with no reasonable option existing to be number six.

The front office took care of that problem Monday by signing Paul Maholm to a one-year deal worth a maximum of $4.8 million — if he meets all his incentives — with an option for 2013.

Maholm adds much needed depth to the rotation, and another lefty to the mix. The move means that the Cubs will likely have another option to start should the injury bug strike as it did in 2011.

But how will Maholm fare in the move to Wrigley Field?

As previously noted, the value of a win on the free agent market is about $5 million. By paying Maholm, who will be 30 during the season, less than that, the Cubs have struck a bargain. Maholm can turn in a performance below what he has established over the rest of his career and Chicago will have still received a deal on the former Pittsburgh starter.

In 2011, Maholm registered 2.1 WAR according to Fangraphs. Even a flat performance could potentially have garnered him almost $10 million if you believe the numbers from other signings. But the Cubs received a discount, possibly because Maholm had his 2011 season cut short with shoulder issues.

As usual, there are no guarantees on performance, just educated guesses based on what has gone before. Since Maholm pitched in the NL Central, there is at least a body of work at his new stadium to judge from.

Pitching for Pittsburgh, Maholm has appeared in just 11 games at Wrigley over his six-plus years. During that run, Maholm has been average. According to Baseball Reference, his OPS+ is 103 when pitching at Wrigley Field, which is slightly below average as lower numbers are better for pitchers.

The number from his line (6-2, 5.48 ERA, 1.344 WHIP, 2.69 K/BB) at his new home that stands out is the seven home runs allowed. That is out of character for Maholm, as over his career he has tended to be an extreme ground ball pitcher, with 52.3 percent of batted balls resulting in grounders.

click on image to enlarge

If you look at the actual games, five of the seven home runs came in two starts at Wrigley Field back in 2007, a year when the Cubs were hammering almost everyone to take the mound. Maholm was also more prone to the longball during the first few seasons of his career (12 percent clip). Since 2009, he has allowed just about 7.5 percent of fly balls to reach the seats.

In 32-1/3 innings since 2009, Maholm hasn’t allowed a ball to leave the park. That is the pitcher that the Cubs signed, not the 2007 version.

Eventually something is going to get away from Maholm and leave Wrigley, and possibly it could be due to a change in venue.

If you map his performance at PNC Park last season, only two balls appear to be at risk of becoming home runs that were less damaging in his former home.

click on image to enlarge

The difference in parks obvious in Maholm’s 2010 hit chart. Eleven balls that went for outs, singles, or doubles, would have been out of Wrigley Field. 2010 also marked a season when Maholm threw more fly balls than normal. Maholm will have to deal with the shorter fence corner fences, but especially in left-center, where PNC has an expanse of land where fly balls go to die.

click on image to enlarge

One final thought on Maholm’s previous Wrigley Field work. Don’t read too much into the 2.69 K/BB ratio that is far above his career number. He was facing the swing-first, ask-questions-later Cubs after all.

If Maholm can continue to keep the ball on the ground — and the Cubs infield improves on defense as expected with Ian Stewart at third and Starlin Castro another year older — Chicago will have gotten a steal at the price they paid for a year of Maholm’s work.

With his 4.22 career xFIP, and .310 BABIP against, Maholm is a solid addition to the back end of the Cubs rotation.

All graphs from the MLB Gameday BIP Location site

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  • Smcneil

    I can see alot of home runs onto sheffield. I dis-like leftys in a righty ball-park. JMHO

    • texcubnut

      You mean Waveland Ave?

      • paulcatanese

        I don’t think it will matter, he is an all field pitcher.:)
        And the comment on Lilly, he still in any part of his career gave up critical home runs. He(lilly) was designed to pitch for a team that can score runs.

        • ChadAudio

          Concerning Lilly.  I was just referencing that the same gloom and doom was attributed to Lilly when he came over to the Cubs.  When we signed Lilly, it was criticized because he was seen as a flyball pitcher that was just going to get lit at wrigley.  I too bought into this criticism, and was later shown to be wrong.  Lilly was a great value and an All-Star pitcher for the Cubs.  
          I don’t think Maholm is as good as Lilly but he wasn’t as expensive or expected to preform like Lilly either.  I’m suggesting that perhaps SOME of that same homerun-pitcher worry will be disproved for Maholm too.

          Now, will the combination of T. Wood and Maholm bee too much?  Could be.  Not sure.

          • paulcatanese

            I should make it clear that I always liked Lilly and he has pitched well for the Cubs. It just seemed to me he would give the long ball up at inopportune times. Those are the times that stuck out to me. I did hate to see him go.

  • Tony_Hall

    Nice report Benjamin. 

    • paulcatanese

      Agree with you Tony, it is a nice report.
      Let me ask you one question, is this report joined by the Cubs going to come out in book form and besold at the park, so people can understand the Cub philosophy a little better?

      • Tony_Hall

        Not following what you are asking?  

        But don’t expect to see Theo come out with a book (ala MoneyBall).

        • paulcatanese

          Kind of like an extra program, or included in the program. I have seen some of this on MLB free diagrams of the game. (don’t know if thats the correct title) I think it would be helpful, with the Cub players featured and their stats, not all of them, but lets just say “Garza pitching today, heres what he does “, something like that.

          • Tony_Hall

            I think more modern stats will be included in player stats moving forward.  They might stay away from giving scouting reports though.

  • Patrick_Schaefer

    Great job BEN. We saw last year how he change his approach Brenly talked about it and it was effective and while his career as a whole isn’t great I agree he is a solid addition. I said that when they signed him.

  • ChadAudio

    Great report Ben.  I still feel like he is a risk, but Lilly worked out so… maybe he can get a little bit of that magic too.

  • texcubnut

    I recall two specific starts of Paul Maholm at Wrigley and both times the wind was blowing out, which could account for inflated home run totals. Of course, now he’ll have to deal with those type conditions much more often. Get your bleacher tickets and your ‘throw-it-back’ arm ready.

  • Anthony

    Very comprehensive report, nice job.

    About the Outfield:

    “younger and more athletic”

    If Soriano is the LF for 2012 subject to defensive replacement versus being traded, so be it.

    Cubs 2012 should be about transition, and hopefully provide additional opportunities for some players and where they may, or may not fit in the Plan.

    Byrd should be traded now so he can have a better opportunity to hang past 2012 as some other teams veteran backup. It probably is what Theo wants, and maybe better for Byrd to catch on with a team in contention as a valuable addition. Byrd also deserves that opp as he is a Pro’s Pro.

    Two outfielders are interesting to me. Sappelt and Campana. Both young, athletic, can run plus, good defense, potential solid table-setters and base stealers.

    As much hype about Torreyes in the trade, Sappelt is classic Theo, like a cross between a Pedroia and Ellsbury. Campana doing the Camp Bussy thing, presumably by invitation, and adding some muscle mass can only help. You can’t teach speed, and it is a tool any team should employ if they have it.

    DeJesus is a plug-in for a future RF, and nobody knows who that may be in a year or two, but there are candidates in the system, and time will determine that outcome.

    If Byrd moves on, for 2012, an OF mix of:


    is OK, if you don’t get hung up on a lack of HR power and are willing to accept doubles, triples, and stolen bases in return. A little smallball is not a bad thing.

    Eventually, Johnson and Soriano will be off the roster, probably 2013, and this is where a full season of 2012 minor league baseball may reveal candidates for 2013 and beyond.

    When Tom does his pre-season minor league reports, that information should open our eyes to all the possibilities, then following the players in-season.

    We read lots about Brett Jackson and Matt Szczur on the fast track, but I am just as interested in seeing what players like Ha, Burgess, DeVoss, Klafczynski, Easterling, Abreu, Giansanti, Wright, Adduci, Crawford, and Chen can do, and if any of them become potential ML candidates. They all offer something good.

    As the Minor League reports start appearing, I may assemble some info links on these guys including video as a get to know thing.

    “younger and more athletic”

    • texcubnut

      Anthony, you can speculate on the future but as of now, this outfield looks just like last year. Soriano in left, Byrd in center, Dejesus in right(in place of Fuku/colvin) and Johnson and Campana on the bench. Eventually, we will see B. Jax but Sczur and others are probably 2 or more years away. Younger(DeJesus is 33) and more athletic….not yet. If you can trade Byrd(and I haven’t heard of any talks,only hopes) and obtain either Coespedes/Soler and get a reasonable return on Soriano(otherwise, we need his bat), than I will buy into “younger and more athletic.”

      • Anthony

        not a Cespedes fan, and Soler would be years away no matter how good, and you mentioned the usual big 2 Jackson/Szczur.

        I prefer to look past that and seek gold, while enjoying the journey, not the result

        • texcubnut

          Well said.

        • paulcatanese

          Anthony, kind of like, “The Unfinished Symphony”.

  • Neil

    From Jordan Bernfield: Cubs and Bloomberg Sports partnering to develop new baseball analytic technology solution system. The new Carmine!

    • Anthony

      I wonder how comprehensive the system will be. Other than results, how it incorporates eyeball scouting reports, 6th tool makeup, etc., and quality versus quantity, i.e “he made the right pitch, tip your cap to the hitter for spoiling it” versus recording an out,

      and, “even though the hitter grounded out and reduced his numbers negatively, the runner advanced to 3rd base.

      • paulcatanese

        Agree Anthony, those qualitys seem to be at the end or out of the picture. Little or no attention has been paid to this angle, except old school people.

    • cubtex

      I sense another position just opened up……. Now hiring a baseball analytic technolgy National Cross Checker….Job Requirements….Must have worked for the Boston Red Sox in the past. Please do not apply unless you meet these requirements. Submit resume and salary requirements(remember we don’t overpay and we buy low)  attention Theo Epstein.

      • Coolpdxcubsfan

        His new office will be in front of McDonalds calculating BMIP (big macs per inning pitched)

        • Coolpdxcubsfan


      • paulcatanese

        Stock shelvers from discount stores have first preference with their resume’s and will be looked at first. Don’t forget to send it on re-cycled paper, or on sheets that have been used on one side.

  • paulcatanese

    I wonder how Cespedes will do in the Dominican playoffs, as their has to be some pitching above the high school level.

    • Coolpdxcubsfan

      Undoubtedly accompanied by a video showing him leaping over tall buildings in a single bound.

      • Coolpdxcubsfan

        Bank buildings.

      • paulcatanese

        Undoubtedly, and one never knows if the pitcher gets a cut from his bonus for a few fat pitches. Just don’t trust the whole scene.

  • Neil

    Cespedes is playing in the Dominican tonight.

  • daverj

    Does anyone have a sense of how Cespedes performed while playing in Cuba compared to Alexi Ramirez?  

  • Tony_Hall

    Another interesting article from the Biz of Baseball and the Sports Law department, on the Chicago sports venues, and the unfairness that the White Sox, get to retain all profits from a restaurant that was build next the the Cell, all paid for by taxpayers, while the Cubs can’t get anywhere with the state helping with renovations for Wrigley. 

    • paulcatanese

      Thanks Tony, good article. Seems the Cubs again are in the wrong place at the wrong time.
      Interesting notion that it could possibly be done if the city of Chicago owned the park(did I get that right?) but that it may not be done the way the ownership see’s it.
      My question would be, where do the Cubs get the leverage to make it happen?
      It is totally unfair with what Soldiers Field got and the White Sox were able to do.
      The restaurant and the profits going to the Sox is out of line. 

  • paulcatanese

    Interesting that Theo signs another player comming off an injury with a discount.
    Not much different than JH signing Pena comming off an injury, with the exception that Theo got a discount.
    I guess that means Theo is smarter.

    • 43hopping

      Where JH put all his money on one or two players Theo is putting his money on a group of players. JH needed to hit 50% of his bets to be successful where Theo only needs to hit on 20% of his bets.
      Both ways are a crap shoot but Theo is playing it smarter in the long run.

      • paulcatanese

        I guess so,time will tell.

  • John_CC

    No one will accuse the Marlins of playing “close to the vest”.  And it sound like we won’t have to worry about over paying for Cespedes either.  How is this for stupid from a team president
    (from MLB TradeRumors):
    Marlins president David Samson said in his weekly
    appearance on 790 The Ticket:

    “[The club’s pursuit will be] aggressive right to the point of
    stupidity, but not quite there,” Samson said. “We think he’s a perfect
    fit for us, but it has to be sane. [We’ve been] expressing interest,
    going to visit, making it very clear to his representatives and to him
    and his family that we think he should not be anywhere other than Miami.
    As a Cuban and someone in the DR, it makes perfect sense. We have a
    perfect position for him to play. It would be great.”

    Samson went on to say that the club is prepared for the sizable
    signing bonus and contract that Cespedes will likely command.  However,
    Miami will back off if another team looks to “make a bigger splash or
    get irrational.”

  • Tom U

    For those who are interesting in this sort of thing:

    Yoenis Cespedes: 0-for-3 with 3 strikeouts as Aguilas Cibaenas lost to Gigantes del Cibao 6-4

    • John_CC

      What a bum!  See, he’s awful, he’ll never make it!

    • paulcatanese

      Knew it, the pitcher probably was at least 19 years old and just out of high school.

      • Dorasaga

        Actually, Paul, the Dominican league has a competitive league. This team alone got Miguel Tejeda, Encarnacion, and Wandy Rodriguez, among other seasoned veterans this year.

        These established star players come and go, but promising prospects or young, rising stars usually play a month or two to perfect some skill(s). Remember Carlos Marmol played the full season 2009? He came back to the Cubs strong, a premium closer and broke the single season record of strikeout-per-inning (before next year when two other rookies broke it).

        There will be a few washed up oldies, like Colon and Manny Ramírez, who’s playing for Aguilas Cibaenas as we speak, but they share a common dedication for returning MLB:

        • Dorasaga

          By the way, I just saw your reply on a daughter as softball pitcher. Interesting. I guess it would be a long time ago when she went Japan (before she entered college).

          • paulcatanese

            Yes it was,she was 16 years old, also went to Tawian. All star team from Calif. Toured Tawain, closest time I can remember there was an Earthquake in Japan shortly after she came home.
            Lot of stories about that trip.

    • Dorasaga

      By the way, Tom, how did Welington Castillo play for the Tigers? You mentioned him in your 12/04 farm report, and that was it. He was a DH for that one game. What happened since then?

  • paulcatanese

    It came as no surprise that Wrigley was not considered for the All Star game. Until renovations have taken place, I dont think theres a chance at all, even 2015 or 16.