Paul Gurner Maholm
- Bats Left, Throws Left
- Height 6' 2", Weight 225 lb.
- School Mississippi State University
- High School Germantown High School
- Debut August 30, 2005
- Final Game August 1, 2014
- Born June 25, 1982 in Greenwood, MS USA
Paul Maholm pitched ten major league seasons, spending the bulk of his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Maholm was drafted in the 17th round of the 2000 amateur draft but turned down their offer to go on to college. He went 8-4 with a 4.06 ERA as a freshman and allowed 106 hits in 95 innings, but still made the Baseball America Freshman All-America team. He improved to 10-3, 3.43 as a sophomore and 9-2, 2.76 as a junior, making the Southeastern Conference All-Conference team. The Pirates took him in the first round of the 2003 amateur draft, 8th overall. The third pitcher taken (after Kyle Sleeth and Tim Stauffer), some Pirate fans argued for a power hitter, Michael Aubrey, given the poor performance by the slew of pitchers drafted by the Pirates in previous years, and for a high school pitcher with a high ceiling, Jeff Allison. Three years later, the decision seems like a reasonable one for Pittsburgh. Maholm was signed by scout Everett Russell for a $2.2 million bonus.
Minor league career
Paul debuted with the 2003 Williamsport Crosscutters, going 2-1 with a 1.83 ERA and .196 opponent batting average. Baseball America rated him the #14 prospect in the New York-Penn League. He had a lower ERA than any of the qualifiers that year.
In 2004, Maholm started strong, going 1-3 but with a 4.84 ERA for the Lynchburg Hillcats. Then, in Mid-May, he was hit in the eye by a line drive from Casey Rogowski. He sustained fractures in the frontal orbital bones and needed surgery. He was out until August and was shaky on his rehab stints, posting a 2.25 ERA in one outing for the GCL Pirates and a 9.49 ERA and 0-2 record with the Hickory Crawdads.
A strained groin sidelined Paul briefly in 2005 but he bounced back well from his rough year and went 6-2 with a 3.20 ERA for the Altoona Curve. He allowed two runs in a third of an inning in the 2005 Futures Game on a double by Justin Huber. He was 1-1 with a 3.53 ERA in his AAA debut with the Indianapolis Indians, then was called up to Pittsburgh. The Pirates organization named him their Minor League Pitcher of the Year though Baseball America chose a fellow sinker-based southpaw, Zach Duke, instead.
Major league career
Paul came within an inning of being the first Pirate since Erv Kantlehner in 1914 to toss a shutout in his first start in the majors. Maholm went 3-1 with a 2.18 ERA for the 2005 Pirates and only allowed a .087 average to left-handers.
As with Duke, the new Pirates management tinkered with Paul's mechanics, which led to some criticism. Maholm started 2006 on a rocky note, going 3-8 with a 5.10 ERA in the first half. Like Duke, he improved as the year went on and he finished at 8-10 with a 4.76 ERA; his 95 ERA+ was about average for a starting pitcher, who tend to have worse ERAs than relievers. He was 7th in the 2006 NL in walks and tied for 8th in hit batters (12), uncharacteristic given his good control in the minor leagues. He then had a poor season in 2007, with his ERA rising to 5.02, although he cut his walks almost in half; he ended the season 10-15. His walk rate was 10th-best in the 2007 NL and he tied for third in losses, two behind Kip Wells and one behind Matt Cain.
In spring training of 2008, Maholm faced Billy Crystal in an exhibition outing. Maholm became the first Pirate hurler in 51 years to hit higher than 9th in a game when he did so on June 30, 2008. He went 0 for 3 and struck out twice to drop his average to .161 (he finished at .123). Luis Arroyo had been the last Buc hurler to bat 8th. Maholm had a very good season overall, although this was not reflected in his 9-9 record: he pitched a career-high 206 ⅓ innings with a 3.71 ERA (good for an ERA+ of 114) and 139 strikeouts, another career-best. While his won-loss record looked unimpressive, it was quite something to be at .500 while starting regularly for a team that lost 95 games. Maholm led the Pirates in wins - no hurler had led a Pirates club in wins with a single-digit total in a non-strike season since 1890.
Maholm was 8-9 with a 4.44 ERA in 2009. He hit his first homer, ruining a shutout effort by John Maine. He was 5th in the National League in hits allowed (221, between Jon Garland and Livan Hernandez), tied for 8th in earned runs allowed (96, even with Duke) and tied for 6th with 11 wild pitches. 2010 marked another season of decline as he was 9-15 with a 5.10 ERA. He was second in the 2010 NL in hits allowed (228, 3 behind Roy Halladay), tied Duke for second in losses (one behind Rodrigo López) and was second to López in earned runs allowed (105).
Maholm began 2011 with a 1-7 record but was not pitching badly - the problem was that the Bucs had only scored 14 runs in his first ten starts, with three shutouts, three one-run games, two two-run games, one three-run game and one four-run game. He made 26 starts for the Pirates that year and finished at 6-14 in spite of a 3.66 ERA, his best since his six-game sting to start his career back in 2005. He had the 8th-lowest home run rate in the 2011 NL (between Chris Carpenter and Tim Lincecum. Thanks to his poor support, he tied for 4th in losses, trailing Derek Lowe, Hiroki Kuroda and J.A. Happ.
He became a free agent after the season and signed with the Chicago Cubs. In spite of playing for one of the weakest teams in the National League in 2012, he managed to top his previous season's total of wins in the first half, and had a very solid record of 9-6, 3.74 in 21 starts when he was traded on July 30th, as the Cubs began to unload veterans in order to stock up their minor league cupboard. He and OF Reed Johnson were sent to the Atlanta Braves in return for two young pitchers, Arodys Vizcaino and Jaye Chapman. He finished the year at 13-11, 3.67 with a 110 ERA+, his best since 2008.
He had a streak of 24 2/3 innings without an earned run to end spring training in 2013 then began the regular season with 26 shutout innings before giving up a run to his old Pirates team, with Andrew McCutchen doubling in Starling Marte. He spent that season as a starter for the Braves, going 10-11, 4.41 in 26 starts and pitching 153 innings. The Braves won the division title but Paul did not play in the NLDS, missing a chance at a first taste of postseason. He became a free agent after the season and joined the Los Angeles Dodgers for 2014, where he was used as a swingman, making 8 starts in 30 appearances. He was 1-5, 4.84,, having pitched 70 2/3 innings when his season ended prematurely because of a torn ligament in his right knee he suffered while covering first base in a game against the Cubs on August 1st. Once again, he missed out on a chance at postseason play, since the Dodgers were leading the NL West at the time. He never returned to the majors after the injury.
Sources include 2001-2006 Baseball Almanacs, unofficial Pittsburgh Pirates e-mail list
- 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 1 (2008)