Thursday, August 19, 2010

Paul Maholm: Zeitgeist of the Pittsburgh Pirates

8-19-10: Pittsburgh Pirates vs. the Florida Marlins

Paul Maholm reacts to the 3-RBI home run in the sixth inning.
Paul Maholm's tweet following his August 8th start in which he lasted not even three innings and gave up 6 earned runs: "...Sorry everyone who had to watch. Make sure to watch next start though."

Maholm has yet to comment on tonight's game. What is there to say? And in 140 characters, no less.

Yes, sometimes it can be rough following Paul Maholm on Twitter. It can be rough following his career as a Pirate as well, but Twitter adds an extra level of despair that makes it something of a drag for someone with a propensity for empathy such as myself. Daniel Moskos has a twitter account, too. His last entry? "Headed to Indy! Looking forward to [the] new challenge that's ahead of me. Caravanning with Alex Presley". Dated 10:02 PM, June 24th.

This is his most recent tweet; Moskos has since bottomed out in Indianapolis and is presently back in Altoona. Again, what is there to say?

As my dad and I left PNC Park this past tuesday following Zach Duke's start, we got to discussing the current state of the starting rotation. As my posts this week have indicated, this tree bears rotten fruit, but it sure does bear a lot of it.
When the discussion began to focus on Maholm, I remarked that he was walking the line between being a dependable starter who had hit a rough patch and an unpredictable starter capable of great things and awful things and infrequently something somewhere in-between. At the time, I surmised that his next start, if poor, would result in a media reaction in the form of articles wondering what the hell happened to Maholm since that fateful one-inning start in Texas.
Little did I know that Maholm would once again defy categorization. Tonight he was dominant through five innings, giving up only two hits and no earned runs, only to walk the first batter he faced in the 6th and subsequently give up a three-RBI home run. Clearly shaken, he followed by allowing a double, a 1-rbi single, and even hit the pitcher.
John Russell approached the pitcher's mound to pull him, and without a word Maholm complied. As he headed for the dugout, he dejectedly handed J.R. the ball in the customary fashion. At this he failed, and the ball fell in the dirt at the skipper's feet. Such was Maholm's start.
And so we return to the question at hand: what can one say? I've seen pitchers fall apart after strong starts, but to pitch a two-hitter through five and lose all command so quickly? Keep in mind that Maholm is the senior member of the Pirates team. He should be able to navigate his way through a bad inning more than anyone.
This is also one game that cannot be blamed on the defense, either. Pedro Alvarez made two terrific stops at third, probably the best of his career so far, and Ryan Doumit made all the necessary plays in right field. Sure, he made a conservative play on a line drive that a more experienced fielder like McCutchen or even Milledge probably could have caught, but it didn't figure into the outcome.
No, this one was all on Maholm. At this point, his season has effectively captured the zeitgeist of the Pirates' 2010 season as a whole. He shows occasional flashes of brilliance capable of dominating any team in the majors. However, these moments of optimism tend to be followed by deflating losses that make the former seem like a figment of the imagination. What one is left with is lack of consistency; in a sport that is ultimately measured in terms of games won and lost, all this gets you is a season such as we have. A 7-1 victory is still only recorded as one victory. A 9-inning shutout is still only recorded as one win.
I'm tired of the false optimism that a blowout victory provides, and the sudden bursts of offense that too strongly resemble a heart in the midst of defibrillation. It's time for the damn thing to come back to life and start beating on its own.

Note: In the interest of making these posts more relevant (i.e. putting them up sooner than three hours before the next ball game), I am now going to post the analysis first. The pictures shall from here on in be posted sometime shortly thereafter.

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