Quick Links - James Paxton
do not relinquish


In the Shout Box, our SSI bleacher section (341, boys, see you there) laments the fact that blogs are constructing 9,000 trades of James Paxton.

Lemme say in the most good-humored way possible :- ) that, usually, this occurs when a pundit has misfired with his skepticism.  When Michael Pineda went nuts in the American League, the blog-o-sphere showered a blizzard of trade suggestions on us.

Yes, gentlemen, James Paxton is about to HEAVILY embarrass those who failed to buy in.  But hey.  It's the best kinda embarrassment there is.  Would that Tom Wilhelmsen embarrassed Dr. D as much.


In our Nov. 2013 article Hey Bill, we discussed the fact that fans have always been crazy impatient with HOF-talented starting pitchers.  Bob Gibson and Sandy Koufax are on the list, but so were Randy Johnson, Jeff Fassero, Jamie Moyer and others.

What the deuce is so blinkin' DIFFICULT about giving the cake a year or two in the MLB-rotation oven?


In our Oct. 2013 article, we used Michael Wacha's awesome start to reflect on the high fastball as a weapon.  There's a joke in the 1969 book Ball Four, where in a pregame a coach says "Sandy Koufax used to get Frank Howard out with high fastballs."  Which, of course, "is fine as long as you could throw a high fastball the way Koufax could."

James Paxton can.  His average velocity in 2013 was 94.9 MPH, which would be #3 in all the majors.  (Paxton is lefthanded.)  Harvey and Strasburg threw faster; that's the list.  Kershaw threw slower.  A lot slower.  92.6 MPH.


In this Sept. 2013 article, James Paxton's Mechanics, we declared (to our own surprise) that his motion is farther along than we expected.  It's just brain targeting and reps, not physical tweaks.


In this other Sept. 2013 article, SSI Best Bet, we argue that the AAA stats, and the Maurer comparisons, are irrelevant.  And that Paxton has very little to actually do to leap plateaus, that he's got plenty of margin for error on BB's, and that his game is (like Lincecum's, vis-a-vis Timmy's college walk rates) going to benefit from ML translation.


Here is the game report from his Sept. 14th start against St. Louis.  In that start, he made the Bill James "Two Great Starts" HOF cut.  The article links, and excerpts, James' original research.  Two starts like Paxton's, and you have a 30% chance to make the Hall of Fame.  Well, sort of.  Read the research.


Here is the original 7-part K-Pax series from March 2011, based on Lonnie's bootleg video.  

Here is the SSI tag for Paxton.  We've got the better part of 100 articles on him :- )


Here is John Sickels' pregame scouting report, from Sept. 2013 when Paxton was called up.  It's tough for John to be as granular as the locals.  He knows more about 29 orgs than we do, or rather, than I do... can't speak for Spec and G.

Here's a quick snippet from The Scouting Book.


People didn't "get" Michael Pineda because, despite having watched baseball for X years, they didn't "get" a 95 MPH located fastball.  You know what I'm sayin'?  They did not fully comprehend how a 95 fastball, on the black, factors into a game of baseball.

The Mariners did, obviously.  They didn't drag their feet. 

What is it that most people don't get about James Paxton?

  • How dangerous his high fastball is -- how much batters have to cheat on it
  • How much margin for BB's he has
  • How much his game is helped by the ML context (early counts, converted GB's, etc)
  • How well his 12-6, and that "angled slider", whipsaw against the fastball they have to cheat on
  • How good his mechanics are

Paxton came out and got results against four good teams, in four starts.  That woke some people up.  But even if he hadn't, he's still a generational talent.


Alternatively, you could try explaining to Dr. D exactly what CC Sabathia had, coming into the majors, that James Paxton doesn't have now.  Sabathia walked 5 men per game, his last year in the minors, and did the same as an ML rookie.  Sabathia was, of course, the personification of a prospect you'd be insane to trade.





That's it. That's what C.C. had that Paxton doesn't.
In his last year in the minors, Carlton walked 5.8/game. Mickey Lolich walked 4.1. David Price walked 4.7. Whitey Ford walked 4.5. Glavine walked 3.4 (4.7 the year before that). Gooden (OK, not a lefty) walked 5.3. Yada, yada, yada.....
All those guys got way better almost immediately in the bigs.
Paxton walked 4.6 in '12, 3.6 in '13 and then only 2.6 during his '13 call up. I think there is a trend there, somewhere.
People are really worried that his control will kill him? Really? Hey, Felix walked 4.9 during his AAA year.
He stays. No trade, no way.


Is that he can't factor into trades if Paxton, ahem, aces him out of the rotation.
We have a problem: we need a hitter (two, really, but let's go with one via large trade).  Our solution is to trade one of our best prospects/cost-controlled young players.
Except not Zunino, Seager, Miller, Franklin, Walker, or Paxton.  We're using those ones and don't want to give them up. We also can't offer you DJ Peterson or Austin Wilson, as they are too new to the system to be available.  We'd prefer not to trade Pike (echoes of Glavine) or Diaz (what were you saying about located 95 mph pitches?). Gohara...
Don't you want our 4th best middle infielder or an A-ball pitcher for your best hitter? We could throw in Maurer or Carraway, maybe.
Yeah. Those deals aren't happening.  So if we want a legit MOTO hitter, we're more than likely gonna have to part with somebody we want to use.
I called Kershaw on Paxton REALLY early on.  I love the guy.  He's one of my favorite prospects.  But if not him... who are you trading as the centerpiece to a deal? Is this where Nick Franklin or Brad Miller gets his number called? I'm not seeing a lot of other options...


I get that, really. I have no problem with Pike, Diaz or Gohara, BTW. ERam, either. And Wilson.
I posted yesterday that a Seager swap (for that Detroit arm) is just ducky with me. If it has to be Miller, I'm good there, too. Or Franklin. I like each and every one of those guys (maybe Miller the most), but they are guys that can likely be replaced (or nearly so) with available talent or what we have now.
I'm holding onto Walker, Paxton, Zunino, Peterson. All others are in play. And I'm aware that some of the guys I'm hugging may flame out. That happens. but trading Paxton for Price doesn't lock in past Price performance. He might blow an arm. Unless you're the Yankees or Red Sox, you need to cherish your cost controlled hug upside guys.
Cabrera or Trout or Harper for Paxton? Hey, even I might bite.
Minus that, I'm holding on to those 4 guys. Heck, I might consider Peterson at 3B in safeco by August.

GLS's picture

I don't buy into the underlying premise that a deal for a MOTO hitter is a priority. What is a priority, I believe, is adding talent up and down the roster and there's all kinds of talent out there that doesn't fall into the MOTO hitter category. At the same time, history tells us that valuing all of our talent so highly that none of them can be traded is probably a mistake.
Ultimately, it comes down to how well you do talent evaluation. That, along with an understanding of roster construction and the ability to properly value the various skills that an individual player brings, are the key skills for a GM.

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