During the broadcast Thursday night, Mike Blowers marveled that 4 or 5 people in Kansas City had walked by him and said, hey dude, we're looking forward to seeing this Paxton kid. You get it, right. The buzz is gathering. James Paxton is gaining legitimacy as a star pitcher. ;- )
During the Fangraphs blogging this week, Jeff Sullivan wrote a neat article that suggests we agree that James Paxton is one of the best. We've got no punch line here. Maybe we woulda had one in 2013. Nah, you know how much we like Sully. He got it in 2013. He's gently leading a grumbly crowd to water, in hopes they'll decide to drink.
The Exec Sum for Sully's piece:
1. It's very important, in a good way, that Paxton showed the ability to fix things after his DL stint.
2. Starting from June 2016, which is when he returned from a demotion, Paxton has thrown 230 innings (about one long season). Since then he's gotten super-elite results on BATTED balls. Fine, he whiffs 10+ a game. But the real story is how weak the hitters' results are assuming they do NOT strike out.
3. Paxton has personally dragged the Mariners into a Wild Card chase.
4. The readers blink, skeptical, and wonder what's wrong with the stats.
This is all pretty funny to think about: batters are just up there trying to put the ball into fair territory against Zeus ... but when they do, they're dead anyway. Yeah baby. Dr. D could add several watts to our heat-lamp basking light, but here's just one.
We searched AL starting pitchers since 2013, when Paxton debuted. We sorted them by Fielding-Independent Pitching (FIP), which is essentially "expected ERA if you have an average defense and park." Here's what you get among active SP's:
Yu Darvish was next at 3.30. Garrett Richards and Dallas Keuchel rounded out the top 10, with Felix #11 and Chris Archer #12. But the point is, when he's been on the field K-Pax has already been the best pitcher in the American League after Chris Sale. We're not talking about potential. With and without his struggles he's been the #2 guy in the league. This was K-Pax, not Zeus, and a wobbly K-Pax at that. His lifetime FIP has been 3.06.
And he's been demoted during that time. It's a strange situation. Randy Johnson was a strange situation too. We was there.
Earlier in the year, some Denizens opined that Paxton is capable of running a 1+ ERA for a season if healthy. Dr. D sort of chuckled about that, because it's so easy for things to go wrong, and by "things" we mean "home runs." But Paxton is a groundball pitcher. And what flies he does give up are not barrelled. His homer rate might actually be 0.62 like it shows.
When he's throwing right, a 1.50 ERA sometimes feels like the upper limit for Paxton. It's not, but it feels like it, don't it?
Tomorrow's news today, babe. Want to know something else about James Paxton? He has a lot of room for improvement. He can pitch considerably better than he did in July. He really didn't have his whole game together last month; for example, I have no idea why he can't always throw a little cutter at the knees when he wants to. But we'll take what he can give us while he's figuring things out.