M's 5, Red Sox 0
Aw, shoot. All these pitches to choose from


Where are the mohawks and horn-rimmed glasses when you really need them?  

"Think I'll go with the ol' number one," gloated Jake Taylor.  He'd put down the index finger, in full view of the hitter.  Ricky would take a windup that looked suspiciously like Rene Russo's.  But the on-set consultant (legendary Dodger catcher Steve Yeager) would jerry-rig a 97 MPH swerveball with 12" of rise.  Swing, miss, Wild Thing dance in the stands.

For the third time straight, a K-Pax or Taijuan threw all fastballs and for the third time straight, an enemy lineup fell right in line like they had Pete Vuckovich in the cleanup slot.  Paxton's pitch type count Sunday:

Type #
Fastball 88
Curve 7
Changeup 10


If you were a hitter in search of in-game strategy, you might want to round Paxton's pitch selection off like so:

Type #
Fastball 9
Curve 1
Changeup 1
(# of pitches in my upcoming at-bat) (3 or 4)
(Prime computation) (Swing early)


Mike Blowers can correct me if I'm wrong, but if I'm a hitter, I'm thinking I can go ahead and start the bat.  That's what the Red Sox did, and James Paxton's blowtorch fastball copped all of 4 swings and misses.  

The Sox weren't exactly "in between" pitches out there.  This, gentlemen, is how you get 97 MPH fastballs whistled foul down the 3B line.

How do you throw a shutout at THAT lineup, based on 4 swings and misses?  I dunno.  But I'm guessing that James Paxton has a good fastball.  And if you want work to take home, hit brooksbaseball.net and compare Paxton's release point to Doug Fister's and Chris Young's.



"It's no secret," said Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon. "Command the fastball and you're going to win and it's going to make all your other pitches better. And when you're commanding a 98-mph fastball, it's going to make everything else special. I thought you saw that today."


Which woulda been great, if Paxton had commanded the fastball.  the Gentle Reader is invited to judge for himself whether James Paxton throws the ball into the mitt the way J.A. Happ does.  

Tom Seaver once said that the catcher should, on 3 of 4 fastballs, be able to catch a pitch by hinging his mitt at the wrist.  Happ comes close to this.  Paxton comes close to this also, in the sense that a catcher's shoulder is close to his wrist.

Paxton did, though, get ahead in the count.  (Back in the day, they used to call this "control.")  Since he was kinda used to the fastball and all, he threw 61 strikes and 27 balls with it.  It's what he must do if he's going to keep his lifetime ERA under 3, which it is ...

In 2014, Paxton did command the fastball.  And he threw the hook off of it.  He was even quoted about the whipsaw in fine SSI style:

“I do utilize the high fastball, to work off of it, and have the curveball drop off it,” Paxton said of the fact that high fastball release points can help mask a high curveball release point. - Eno Sarris, Fangraphs, quoting Paxton


Eno has a set of .gifs up, comparing Good Paxton to Bad Paxton to 2014 Paxton.  Plot spoiler:  there's nothing in Paxton's motion that is the Big Key to a rampage through a 20-win season.  Hey, you might have absolutely perfect horseshoe form, but there's still just practice in aiming the horseshoe.  In pitching they call this "release point" and Paxton says he working on this.  Translation:  I gotta aim it better.


I regard Lloyd McClendon as absolutely the 2010's version of the 1990's Lou Piniella -- absolutely not an ounce of horse hockey in the man.  He had a weird and wonderful quote a couple of days ago.  "I like my rotation," Lloyd said of his Iwakuma-less rotation.  "All five of them.  That's what I look at when I come to the ballpark, the other team's starting pitcher, and it tells me whether I'm going to ... er, whether I've got a good chance to win today."

In Lou-speak, that's a remarkably optimistic thing to say about Taijuan.  And Roenis Elias.

But he followed it up with a quote to the effect that --- > his bats will get going, Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager, and "then some people are going to be in trouble."

First the rotation jells, and then you have margin for error to give the offense some time.  Like Billy Beane says, you play TWO months to see what you got.  (Then, Jack, two months going out and getting what you lack.)


Personally, I'm looking forward to the return of the 2014 Paxton.  The last twenty innings of shutout ball were lucky.  When Paxton gets here, they won't be.



Here are the last twelve starts we've gotten, counting backwards:


K-Pax 8 0
Felix hof hof
Happ 7 1
Elias 6.1 1
Taijuan 6 2
K-Pax 6 0
Felix hof hof
Happ 5 1
Taijuan 5 3
Elias 7 3
K-Pax 7 2
Felix hof hof


The start before that, May 3, J.A. Happ was knocked around.  But if you take May 4 as the unofficial beginning of the Ricky Vaughn era, that's 12 starts in a row that were right in the middle of the fairway.

The M's may need a little work on their approaches and short game, since they're only 7-5 in the above games.  But Lloyd's got the right idea.  If the rotation keeps doin' that, some people are going to be in trouble.



Over the last seven days, the M's have everybody hitting except Ackley and Chris Taylor.  (Robby Cano is hitting even when he's not.)  Going in to Balmer, here our the dangerous guys.  In order of contribution to the team's success:


AB Stat, last 7 days Remark
Miller 1600 OPS Is the Logo right now
Cruz .318/.400/.455 +3.01 win probabilities added, first quarter 
Seager .565 SLG Roundin' into form bab-eh
Ruggiano 3-for-8, 1 HR, 1 BB Eat yer heart out, Chris Denorfia
Zunino .278/.278/.667 The werst is over.  B'lee DAT
LoMo .417 OBP 5 BB and 3 K since pitchers stopped throwing strikes
Seth   mediocre.  Dat ain't bad for #7


In Balmer, we got Taijuan-Elias-Happ.  They got Miguel Gonzalez and two (2) TBA's.  They don't got Ubaldo Jimenez or Mike Wright, 'cause those two guys just pitched in their series win over the Angels.

See you at the ballpark,

Dr D





Correct me if I'm wrong, but if you throw 97 from the left side and bad guy batters are starting WAY early, then wild in the zone has always been pretty effectiv.  See:  Nolan Ryan.
The batter is guessing location, anyway.  Up/down/in/out/....I can count a few options there.
As long as you don't just miss down easy street at 94 mph, mind you.  Ergo, the priority on location.  But nobody is pretending that Paxton is somebody named Vargas.  
In the history of the game, how many lefties throw that kind of heat and spot their fastball like a Greg Maddux?  Uh, the answer might be none.  Not when they were young, anyway. Randy Johnson averaged 3.3 BB's/9 over his career.  Paxton currently sits at 3.4.  Johnons didn't have a season below 3.0 until he was 34 and wasn't below 2 until he was 40. Paxton is ahead of the curve. Once he turned 27, Koufax went precision on the NL.  He had 4 seasons running (his last 4) where he averaged (total) just under 2/9 and was K'ing just over 9/9.  Basically, that would be the next Paxton step.  Well, OK...2.5 BB/9.   Paxton is already in elite company in terms of what his fastball can do.  I suspect it looks even faster from the batters perspective because he has that long reach and smooth motion.   
I don't know how to find the info, but I'm pretty sure that Zunino abandoned the Yakker after the 2nd inning of his previous start, when he was all over the lot.
Why call for something he's struggling with when you have a weapon at hand that is pretty nuclear.  Wild Thing is an example.  Bob Feller might be, too.  How many nights did Randy Johnson huck up a bunch of heaters because he couldn't find the slider?  A bunch, I bet.
What I'm seeing is a fine defensive catcher calling a fine game and his young stud hoss doing what he does best, right now.
Swing frm the left side against that?  I pity the po' fool!!!


Just pure velocity, wild in the zone, would buy you plenty of margin for error.  K-Pax has not just the velo but the (1) LH, the (2) downhill angle, (3) and hop.   Seems he throws down, he gets a grounder.  Throws up, they miss it.  It really is something I've never quite seen before.
But yeah.
Not optimistic about how the 9-1-1 pitch mix ("sir, could you state your emergency?"  "Yes, Erick Aybar is pulling my fastball.") will be viable in the long term.  The 1990 Big Unit used to hit 100 MPH on the gun and still get hit.  Later he threw the Frisbee up for called strikes and off we went.
It sez here that Paxton needs a curve ball for a strike ASAP, but the very moment he has one, loooooook oouuuuuut ...


Give him a slurve that gets some called strikes and he moves to the next level.
But, as you know, he's had the sum total of 25 MLB starts.  He's giving up 7.2 hits, 0.6 homers, 3.3 BB's with 7.2 K's
Discarding Felix's 19 year old season (12 starts), in his first full season he was 9.2, 1.1, 2.8, 8.3
In some ways, I've really enjoyed watching Paxton struggle with the curve a bit.  He's learning to win (impressively) without his best stuff.  At this level, nearly everybody wins frequently with their A game.  how many people dominate with their B game?

GLS's picture

Seems like a true curve might be a big step, but a slider or even just a cutter might do the trick. Then maybe a split finger down the road at some point.

misterjonez's picture

but if he could throw a mid-90's cutter and a high-90's fastball, I'd take the blizzard of blonks and broken bats, with their attendant low pitch counts, every day of the week--assuming he could pitch that often.
Clemens got his K's from having a legitimately high strike zone (they DID call the letter high strike, once upon a time, and that time just so happened to be early in Clemens' career) but I don't know any other guys who work high in the zone, with an upper 90's fastball, who ended up piling up the K's via split-fingers. Most splitters that lead to high K's seem to be from relievers who throw a little lower on the velocity scale (low nineties heat, high eighties split, like so many Japanese pitchers seem to thrive doing).
Wasn't it Daniel Hudson who basically just threw two fastballs for the first few years of his career, a 2seam and a 4seam? I think that Doc's idea of the curveball is the perfect one, but *any* secondary pitch he could get over for strikes would make a guy like Paxton thermonuclear.


Paxton has had a good curveball and there is really no reason to suspect that it won't round into shape. FB/CB is a lethal attack. I wouldn't mess with it.


I think last start I saw that they broke down as:
4 yanked way down into the RH batter's back foot
2 well-placed (1 strike low, 1 strike gloveside)
1 centered
But he had 4 swings off that potpourri, as I recall, no hits, so you'd have thought there was plenty of reason to throw three times as many.  :: shrug :: if Waits is using this strat-er-gy to get Paxton into a pitcher's rhythm, hokay.
I firmly insist that once he gets a feel for the hook, we're going to see something Unit-like.  Or Young Sabathia at 'worst.'  :- )
In his embryonic stages, he's got his life ERA down to 2.97 again :- )

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