JAMES PAXTON ++ We're always nervous until a pitcher throws his first good game. Bill James' latest article included this:
This is driven by the opening days of the 2018 baseball season, in which we have seen that Chris Sale is still a really good pitcher, and David Price also looked like a really good pitcher at least in his first two starts, while other very good pitchers have looked like they perhaps are not as good as they used to be. There is some magic about it. . .about these opening days, but also about the fact that a player was really good last year and still is this year.
It’s hard to explain, but part of the legerdemain of baseball is the fear that a player who was really good last year will not be good this year. A baseball fan is omnianxious. He is afraid that the Felix Hernandez of 2015 will become the Felix Hernandez of 2016, that the Cliff Lee of 2013 will become the Cliff Lee of 2014, that the Roy Halladay of 2011 will become the Roy Halladay of 2012. It is certain to happen sometime. This pandemic fear that we have, that our gold will turn to lead, makes us watch the opening days of the baseball season with the hopeful dread of a banker discovering that his vault has been left open overnight.
Nice! So baseball's Socrates, as so often, validates the "naive" fear we all have about a James Paxton in the first week.
Against Minny he was in "Edwin Diaz" mode -- hot fastball, wild for a strike but no command, low fosh for automatic garbage swings.
It is a bad, bad cliche, "He only made one mistake" but I actually felt that way after Miguel Sano (IIRC) caught hold of an elevated fosh. In fact the entire series the Twins seemed like the Warriors on a hot roll - they couldn't miss. Five tough pitches fouled off and taken, then one fairly decent pitch and WHACK!!
On Slack, somebody reminded me the Twins are a playoff team. Boy, are they. They have a diamond-hard ballclub over there, that. is. for. sure. Don't forget that the M's have been playing super-exciting games against playoff teams, Cleveland and Minnesota plus Johnny Cueto. They have Cruz and 'Zino and Gamel out, and are they 1-6 to show for it?
They were still no match for Paxton, because nobody is. On his A game, he quite literally would overmatch the 1927 or 1961 Yankees. (Well, especially '27, since Ruth and Gehrig were lefty ...... ) In this one he wound up with 14 swings and misses, 8 off fastballs in the zone (!!) and 6 off foshballs. In this one, he wielded his A-/B+ Diaz game for 5 IP, 1 BB, 7 K.
Nice to relax. The ballclub has its monster #1 starter, and this year he's got the lineup to back him.
MIKE LEAKE + Lacked command in the 27 degree weather. Still threw a shutout, except for Ichiro's weird drops. ... once again, Dr. D is not trying to make him out to be a star; his CTL ratio is running 3.0 K, 5.3 BB after two games. But he is a "gamer" and he can pitch for my ballclub anytime.
More bad news is that his FB is down a bit; it's only 2 games, though, one of them in an icebox. More more bad news is that the Twinkies barrelled up a lot of pitches, about 12 of them at Mitch Haniger. But Dr. D can't stop thinking about Mal's .gif of Leake's cutter breaking 3 times in one pitch. Very often it has a nasty little 4" drop just as the batter swings. Is anybody else starting to think of Leake's 87 MPH cut fastball as a weird variation on the KNUCKLEBALL?
The 5-0 lead started teetering with Ichiro's back-to-back flubs and the Twins' sharp hitting. But the Mariners are off to a 122 OPS+ start, and that is with playoff opposition and two major stars out. Yeah, you heard me, Zunino's a star. Come at me, bro'.
... anyway the Twins came at the M's, fangs bared, 5-3 and charging. We did what you should do with snarling dogs, tazer them. With a 5-run inning. 122 OPS+ and counting, lessee Boom and Zuum against lesser comp.
FELIX HERNANDEZ - Have never seen him wild like that. Magic 8 ball the DL for us wouldja Felix?
For my ownself, I'm gon' think of him as an above-average #5 starter.
JUAN NICASIO = Once AGAIN had the super weird effect of throwing 89 to start the inning and then ramping up to 94. Even at 94 he's not blowing the Mainframe's socks off; for $8M it wants a hot, painted fastball and then a putaway slider. None of which have shown themselves yet whatsoever.
JAMES PAZOS =+ Came in and pumped 95 MPH strikes. Mostly.
MARK ZIPCHINSKY, DAN ALTAVILLA, NICK VINCENT ALL LIGHTLY =+ Scrabble looks real sharp, yay. Altavilla can pour FB's down the middle with impunity, but let's not go overboard because he's got a major problem, hanging the slider. Still is =+. Nick Vincent on Saturday showed the weird ability to miss bats with his slow fastball. Like Jamie Moyer winning most of 300 games with a terrible fastball, he's a curiosity; there's nothing you'd want to try to learn from him.
Generally speaking, the Wuf'pack is teetering but not tipsy. The M's relievers are running #7 in the AL for WAR, with a 10.7 / 1.5 (!) / 1.5 gopheritis slash line. It's not clear to Dr. D why Casey Lawrence threw 8 perfect outs in Game 2 (?) and has no appearances since, and it's not clear why on Saturday the Twins were always hitting with the platoon advantage. But it's a Ron Shandler roto staff, with a $500,000 closer as a great anchor, and some interesting $1 talent behind him.