The Mariners left-hander started the season spectacularly. “Flawless” probably accurately covers how he had pitched in his first three starts. Then Thursday night happened!
The Mariners Cy Young candidate, MLB WAR-leading giant slayer James Paxton crumbled into a flaming mess that was anything but flawless. What changed? Where did the unhittable Paxton go? Is this a sign of a downward trend for the rest of the season?
Well, first things first let’s look at his stat line. He only made it through 4.1 innings gave up nine hits, and saw five runners, all credited to him, cross the plate. Paxton saw his WAR go from 1.4 to 1.0, watched his WHIP go from 0.38 to 0.87, and his ERA jumped from 0.00 to 1.78.
While these are still phenomenal numbers, to change that drastically in one day indicates a miserable outing.
More from SoDo Mojo
- Could the Mariners Acquire AL Batting Champion, Luis Arraez?
- Steamer Projections: Julio Rodriguez to enter rarified air in 2023
- What if the Mariners traded FOR Tyler O’Neill this time?
- Mariners starting pitching is being overlooked by MLB
- Baking the Cake: An Adjusted Mariners Offseason Plan
First, we can look at strikes. How was his command on Thursday compared to the rest of the season? Against Oakland, he threw 91 pitches, the fewest of any outing this season.
Of those 91, only 57 were strikes; eight fewer than in his first start of the year against Houston. He only had 14 looking strikes which indicates that his command was off last night.
The reason Paxton has been so good this season is that he finishes when he faces batters. He got them where he wanted them by using a stellar command and then put them away by inducing poor contact. Thursday night, he didn’t finish.
He hit the third inning and the wheels started to fall off. He finished with 30 pitches in that inning alone and struggled to find himself again. Servais took him out, but not before he could be accountable for five runs. Paxton may not have taken the loss because the Mariners offense came alive, but the damage was done.
So which Paxton will show up the rest of the year?
I venture to say the Paxton of the first three games will return. Will he be that dominant? Doubtful, but Paxton has shown similar performances in the past few years, and I still believe good Paxton will return.
Every pitcher has a bad start now and then, but the general scope of Paxton’s career says he will bounce back and validate everyone’s thoughts of him being the potential ace of the future. Only time will tell, but I for one am hopeful for the future.