Angels' corner tossed in the towel about two 4-run innings ago, I think ...
Paxton goes to 5-0, 1.75 in his first six MLB starts. Maybe Gordon can draw us up a list of SP's who were 5-0 and 6-0 after six starts?
He's got 34 strikeouts and 9 walks, with 4 homers allowed, in 36.0 IP. A nice symmetrical TTO line of 8.5 / 2.25 / 1.0 ... the two starting pitchers with the most similar TTO's to that, over the period 2011-13, are CC Sabathaa and David Price. Like we sez, Paxton has deviated from script. He has been pitching more like the virtuoso's than the napalm divebombers Koufax and Kershaw.
IP 1 - Paxton digs into the 3-run hole
Conventional wisdom -- that on TV, anyway, from McClendon & Blowers et al -- was that Paxton was amp'ed up for the Big Home Opener. Made a few mistakes in the first, but settled in and mowed them down later.
SSI's take is different.
Start by understanding: K-Pax is in a mode now to where he "gets too much of the plate," like Pineda did for a short while. I mean, not really - for Paxton it is not much of a problem, but hold that thought. The starter point here is: the batters know that the ball is going to BE there.
The Angels had the motto, "Our best pitches will be early-AB and early-game fastballs" and they came out desperate to get Paxton early in the count. If you study the GameDay, you'll find out that's exactly what happened. He didn't particularly make worse pitches in the 1st than he did later, but ... the first time through the lineup, Zunino wanted to establish the heater. The Angels realized it was now or never.
It really is nothing to worry about, not a long-term problem. Randy Johnson, Clayton Kershaw, anybody like that ... the batters want to try to prevent the pitcher from "getting to his breaking pitches" with two strikes.
Following a "lucky" ground ball single by Trout, Albert Pujols managed to get on top of a real high, letter-high, 92 fastball for a two-run homer. The vast majority of the time, that ball is a fly out; there isn't really any adjustment needed, or maybe even any adjustment desirable.
(The pitch to Freese was a poor one. Every pitcher makes 12 or 15 such pitches a game.)
After the Angels' top half of the first, the 2014 battle reverted to normal. Over the next 8.5 innings and 2.7 hours, the Mariners collected 8 hits and 5 runs against the Angels' 1 hit and 0 runs.
IP 2-3 - Paxton settles into the rocking chair
First guy up in IP 2 was Raul Ibanez ... Paxton kinda got away with one, a 91 MPH fastball out and over, ground ball out by Ibanez. But from there:
- Paxton out-muscled the bottom of the Angels' lineup as he found his velocity on the night, and
- The second time through the lineup, he started sequencing and they had no chance.
For example, here's the leadoff guy Calhoun, first man up in the third. Paxton starts him with a high fastball, then tosses two "roll off the table" hooks and it's See You Later. Like Randy Johnson against John Kruk.
Then against Mike Trout:
- Smokin' hot 94 fastball at the knees, 0-1
- 87 change, off the plate, a "show me" pitch, 1-1
- 95 fastball down-in tears Zunino's glove off, swing through, 1-2
- Big yakker rolls off the table, the fabulous Mike Trout achieves the unpossible: to ground out weakly
And so on. The cliche on these Walking Death Machines -- Koufax, Unit, Guidry, Paxton -- is get them before they start sequencing, or mail in the loss. You see why.
(If you're curious, Albert Pujols finished IP 3 by grounding out on a 95 MPH cut fastball right on the inside black -- Albert looks like he's back to his 1.000 OPS this year.)
IP 4-5 - Stop Da Fight
In the 4th, after the M's took the lead, Paxton struck out the side with ridiculous ease. Like they say, if there's a higher league, James Paxton would go to it ...
The at-bat against Hamilton was a mercy killing. Paxton threw a yakker for a gimme strike one, and then two power slider/cutters looked like Unit-vs-Kruk again:
It could very well be that LH batters grab a lot of bench against Paxton, like they did against Randy Johnson. He'll start sweeping that cutter to the outside corner and it'll get ugly.
Paxton isn't going to go undefeated for his career. He's groping in the dark out there. But his debut stats run 8+ strikeouts, 2+ walks, 1.0 homers, and Dr. D is here to tell you that James is just now realizing that they can't handle his best game.
IP 6 - the "Slight Lat Strain"
McClendon in the postgame emphasized the "slight" part. As we all know, "lat strain" is a catchall that is sometimes applied to bone cancer or demonic possession. In this case, based on watching Paxton throw, we'll gingerly guess it is a --- > slight lat strain.
Supposing that he's out for 4-5 turns ... Taijuan pitches on Wednesday and could easily slide right into Paxton's slot. With three major benefits:
- Lightening Paxton's eventual IP load on the year, and keeping him fresh to win 4 games in October :- )
- Giving Roenis Elias a chance to show he's Livan Hernandez
- Giving Chris Young a chance to show he's going to be back to 2007-09 for a few months
You'll get the followup reports before I do. Gordon, you know what to do, eh hoser?
Nervous thought of the day: Dr. Mike Marshall broke something in his ribs, essentially ending his reign of terror, by adding a new pitch. Felix Hernandez got that forearm strain when he got transfixed by the swerveball. I hope that Paxton's new lat strain isn't because of the new cutter, but it's entirely possible.
The chance of those two things being causative ... oh, 5%, we'll guess. But just so's you know we're payin' attention. Paxton only threw 8 cutters in 60 pitches, so it's not like he went nuts with it, and that's what bit him.
First seven games, we have seen our Best. Case. Scenario.
Wow. SSI thought this group could easily bring the 2014 Jenga tower down. Instead of that, they're out there one-up'ping each other. And Justin Leone has hurled himself onto the pigpile.
The little DL stint is going to distract every other blog from the real news tonight. That being, "James Paxton is having wayyyy too much fun out there."
Focus boys focus,