James Paxton Shuts Down The Cardinals — Is He The Real Deal?


March 7, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Seattle Mariners relief pitcher

James Paxton

(65) throws in the fifth inning during a spring training game against the Oakland Athletics at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

The Mariner’s highly touted pitching prospect James Paxton now has two big league starts under his belt and the results have been awfully positive. Since being called up, Paxton has arguably been one of the M’s lone bright spots in what has so far been a dismal September.

In his first start on Sept. 7 against the Tampa Bay Rays, Paxton pitched six solid innings of baseball, giving up one earned run on four hits while recording the win. Though he only struck out three batters and did surrender a homerun (to Evan Longoria no less), it was a respectable MLB debut for Paxton, especially considering that the Rays are a decent, albeit slumping team.

Today, Sept. 14, in his second start, Paxton squared off against the St. Louis Cardinals —another fairly decent team —and the results were even better: six innings of two hit, shutout ball with five strikeouts.

Paxton now sports a record of two wins and no losses, and an ERA of 0.75 over 12 innings of work. That’s not too bad for a rookie, especially taking into consideration that the Rays and the Cardinals represent a major boost in quality of competition compared to the minor league batters Paxton has been battling against all season.

But before fans start to wonder and gripe about why Paxton has been laboring in the minors all season when he could’ve been stifling M’s opponents, it’s worth taking a look at his minor league stats.

Paxton started the season in Triple-A Tacoma and in 28 games compiled eight wins and 11 losses over 145.2 innings pitched. He sported an ERA of 4.45 and a WHIP of 1.48. These numbers on paper aren’t bad — but also aren’t great. Paxton did manage to strike out batters at a rate of 8.1 per nine innings, which is pretty decent, but he also managed to walk batters at a clip of 3.6 per nine. Control issues have been one of the major knocks against Paxton throughout his minor league career. He walks too many people, and with his stuff, which is good but not overpowering, Paxton needs to reign in his wild ways if he wants to be a viable big league starter.

But his Triple-A numbers and their possible implications aside, so far, James Paxton’s command hasn’t been an issue in his two big league starts and overall he has looked great. Paxton faces another tough test against Detroit in his next start (assuming Felix Hernandez misses another start), but regardless of how he fares, he should be in a great position to compete for a spot in the M’s starting rotation come next spring.