We've talked a lot on this blog about the changes the Atlanta Braves rotation has undergone since the beginning of the year, and the hexagonal shape it currently finds itself in. The most costly addition to the rotation has been Paul Maholm, but even he came relatively cheaply.
Before last month's trade deadline the Braves front office seemed dead set on making a trade. They lifted the untouchable status on (likely) every prospect in the system, and were willing to give away a promising young arm for a two-month rental. We all know the saga of how that fell through, and how we ended up with Maholm instaed. The Braves still traded one of their previously untouchable prospects, albeit one who will not return from the disabled list until next year.
There was some hand wringing over trading away such a good young prospect for a pitcher whom the Braves could have signed this past off-season, but Atlanta was in buy mode, and they got the guy they believed to be the second-hottest pitcher on the market, behind the guy they thought they had acquired a week earlier, Ryan Dempster.
Through three games, it looks like the Braves were lucky that Dempster passed on coming to Atlanta:
It's only three games, but Maholm represents a significant upgrade over what the Braves previously had in the rotation, while Dempster represents a significant downgrade. Dempster has given up 8 runs in two of his three starts, the victim of the bandboxes of the American League.
Whatever the excuse for Dempster, however he might have pitched in a Braves uniform, Maholm has been everything the Braves had hoped they could have gotten from Dempster. In throwing two innings more per start than Dempster, Maholm has also been a positive for the Atlanta bullpen, which doesn't have to work as hard.
It may be somewhat repetitive to write about the difference between these two pitchers every couple of weeks for the rest of the year, but that's what's going to happen, and right now the Braves continue to look good. The desire to compare them is just too tempting, and with the way each has been pitching, it's too much fun to pass up.
Maholm might go sour, his hot streak might come to an end, but it sure looks like the Braves got a guy who will battle every at-bat, and give the Braves a strong middle-of-the-rotation starter for this year and next year. His continued good work in the rotation will be critical if the Braves are to continue to play winning baseball and catch the Nationals in the National League East.
See you in two weeks.