IMAGINE SIRI'S VOICE CHIMING OFF YOUR COMPUTER MIC
Brooks baseball has had a beta feature this year, one that translates its F/X pitch numbers into English prose. It's one of the first things Dr. D looks up when trying to remember what the F/X said on a recall like Andrew Moore.
For James Paxton, we get scoops of butter pecan flanking Gold Medal chocolate and three kinds of topping. Sez Siri / Brooks:
Basic description of 2017 pitches compared to other LHP:
His fourseam fastball is blazing fast and generates more whiffs/swing compared to other pitchers' fourseamers.
His curve generates a very high amount of groundballs compared to other pitchers' curves, generates more whiffs/swing compared to other pitchers' curves and is much harder than usual.
His cutter generates an extremely high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers' cutters, is blazing fast, results in many more groundballs compared to other pitchers' cutters and has some natural sink.
His change is thrown extremely hard and generates fewer whiffs/swing compared to other pitchers' changeups.
His sinker generates an extremely high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers' sinkers, is blazing fast, has little sinking action compared to a true sinker, results in somewhat more flyballs compared to other pitchers' sinkers and has slight armside run.
His slider (take this with a grain of salt because he's only thrown 13 of them in 2017) is thrown extremely hard, has much less depth than expected, has primarily 12-6 movement, generates fewer whiffs/swing compared to other pitchers' sliders and results in more flyballs compared to other pitchers' sliders.
You don't see that combo too often in the "curve" line, the very high GB with the whiffs/swing, but it's OK by us.
One thing we didn't know is that his changeup has been a kind of pitch-to-contact idea, at least so far. Interestingly, it has also been his only ineffective pitch; fair enough; we understood that it was his #4 offering and we watched as he totally scrapped it during the middle of the summer.
It catches your eye on Fangraphs that Zeus kept a +1.59 runs value on the fastball and +2.58 on the "sinker," meaning the 4-seamer that runs armside (and keeps less velo) more than it rises. Probably he's controlling that pitch best, zinging guys on the hands with it or making them do something with 96 MPH at the bottom of the knees.
In fact for SP velocity here is the table of leaders: Paxton has a +1.50 on this table, fourth in the game, with only 9 guys over 1.00. R.A. Dickey's fastball is entertaining at the top and the two guys who clock in ahead of Zeus are Chris Sale and Justin Verlander. I don't doubt that, command taken into consideration, Chris Sale's fastball is still a tad harder to hit than Zeus' is.
BJOL has Paxton at #50 in both leagues, reflecting James' rather anti-sabermetric ;- ) feeling that starting pitchers should prove an ability to sustain innings.
PRE-SEASON BASEBALL HQ
Had Zeus slotted for a 12-10, 3.94 season with 172 IP, 159 K and a $9 value, wayyyyyyy hedging against durability concerns. Health/reliability was graded pure F, though as we know his 2017 season boasted +4.6 WAR.
Called up to rotation in June and stuck all year. Mediocre surface stats (e.g. 3.95 ERA - Dr D), but seeds of upside were planted: DOM (K/9) growth came with SwK support (12% in 2017), top-shelf FB velo. GB %, CTL combo reduce DIS risk (i.e., not going to get a bunch of early KO's against him - Dr D). Health, IP spike (only 67 IP in 2016) prevents us from going all in, but 2nd half gains (e.g. BB/9 dropping to 1.3 - Dr. D) gains hint at ... UP: 3.00 ERA
Baseball HQ predicts health mainly by increases of IP totals from one year to the next. It's encouraging; by this measure Paxton should be in much better shape going into 2018 than into 2017.
Zeus alloweda measly 0.60 homers per 9 based on a piddling 7.8% home run/fly rate, which is getting down towards 50% of league on both metrics. His BABIP was .300, actually unlucky for him, his strand rate a lucky 75.5%. This left his ERA a neat tick below three at 2.98 for the year.
Early in the year we had some of our best and brightest Denizens wondering about a 1+ ERA for a season.
There are no questions left other than health, and Dr. D takes the OVER. Not (only) because of bias, but because he favors power pitchers generally and because he doesn't believe in bad luck. Of course any SP is an injury risk.
Let's! Go To! the Video! Tape!
Here is his Oct. 1, 2017 start. The box score was 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 9 K. Normally the 'Frame would do a little bullet list of what the pitches were but here it is obvious: Whatever He Wants.
It sounds a little weird to say, "Can we just do this again, and try to skip the injuries this time." But in the case of the 1-2 starting pitchers, when you're talking about two roster slots rather than 25, I think it is logical to do so. I think it would be logical for the Green Bay Packers to attempt this approach next season.
Or if you, Dear Denizen, just feel tooooo blinkin' squeamishhh about James Paxton's health, well then ... wouldn't Option 2 be a Billy Beane-style trade? If this article stub returns Dr. D nothing other than a Denizen's idea of an intoxicating raid for some other team's ML-ready Great White Whale, it will have been worth it. :- )
Most sabermetricians are very, very into "tearing a team down and rebuilding it right" and on James Paxton's last start of the 2017 season, he delivered --- > what would normally be an October fantasy, except that for Paxton these "fantasies" are the norm.
Paxton's health record can't be minimized. Neither should we attempt to trade him for Walter Johnson, primarily because Johnson would find it difficult to get into game shape and the next-best suggestion for a bankable 250 innings isn't a lot better, either. If Boras takes James Paxton out onto the FA market this winter, it's him and Ohtani for the $2xx contracts. Me personally, if I'm the GM of the Seattle Mariners I love love love my 1-2 starters for 2018.
But then, I remember when it used to be Glenn Abbott and Dick Pole.