July 31, 2012 at 11:54 am by Ben Duronio under Atlanta Braves
Over at FanGraphs, I covered the Braves part of the Maholm and Johnson trade. I went a bit deeper into the analysis there than I did last night when the trade was announced, so check it out. Here is a snippit.
If Maholm is able to lower his home run rate back down closer to the levels he became accustomed to in Pittsburgh, he should be a very effective starter. The addition of his cutter over the past few years, specifically in an uptick in frequency this year, has allowed him to post a career high strikeout percentage and strikeout-to-walk ratio. Those numbers combined with a move to a pitcher friendly park could push his FIP- to a better than league average mark. With four consecutive years with a WAR above 2 and a current mark of 1.6, it is easy to expect Maholm to be worth the $6.5 million option next season. He is far from a flashy pitcher as his fastball velocity sits at around 87 mph, but he changes speeds well and induces ground balls roughly 50% of the time which allows him to be a a surprisingly effective pitcher. With Ben Sheets always being an injury risk, Tommy Hanson‘s velocity dropping, Mike Minor having an up-and-down season despite solid performances as of late, a solid starter like Maholm fits perfectly into the Braves plans for the next year and a half.
Johnson is the type of player the Braves have been trying to acquire for years. In trading for Matt Diaz last season, the Braves attempted to fill in the right-handed bat to spell their plethora of left-handed hitters and round out their bench. Diaz’s injury and ineffectiveness made it necessary to search for a player like Johnson, a more versatile outfielder who still hits lefties at a high level. The Braves bench has been a problem, as outside of Juan Francisco they lack a quality hitter due to Eric Hinske‘s problems at the plate and Fredi Gonzalez’s unwillingness to burn David Ross as a pinch hitter. Johnson gives the team a solid late game pinch hitter against left-handed relievers, and will allow Michael Bournand Jason Heyward to stay fresh down the stretch run.