Yeah Doc, I think the evidence is building that if James Paxton stays healthy and on his game for an entire season, he's capable of running an ERA that starts with 1. Which would be the first time in the Real American League since Pedro in 2000. Sure, Kershaw (and Greinke, and Clemens) have been doing it in the Fake National League, but it takes a special dude to hold an actual 9-man lineup below two runs a game. Zeus sure looks capable. Theoretically, that is.
Sudden thought. Does this generation call them the BoSox? ... hm ...
Q. Okay, the facts of the matter first. Let's start our coffee with "hard" data.
A. Those being:
√ 78 fastballs vs. only 10 foshball/cutters and 14 knuckle curves. That's probably the highest lightning-bolt ratio of Zeus' career.
√ Zeus' last 6 games against Houston and Boston: 43 IP, 0.39 ERA.
√ Boston #30 in the majors for first-pitch swings. #15 in the AL for hitting strikeouts. A remarkable combo when you're taking deep counts.
√ Paxton with 24 of 25 first-pitch fastballs. 24/25 !!
√ and 20 of 24 second-pitch fastballs. That makes 44 out of 49 fastballs in the first half of the counts, which average 4 pitches per batter.
√ The Red Sox didn't swing much at those early-count fastballs. You can look up the exact numbers but they're low.
√ 10 strikeouts. The majority of which were diabolical low sliders, back door curves, and back-foot curves.
√ 1 changeup makes 1 in the last three games. In the postgame Paxton's coach said he won 'cause he had all four pitches working. He had three, two of which he used sparingly. Moral of the story: major leaguers are way more informed than we are, but they are not speaking from On High. Which, let's say they were... ulp ;- )
√ M's win.
Q. When you throw 90% fastballs in early counts why don't the batters cheat and sit Dead Red?
A. Because Zeus had complete command of his slider and change curve, and the Red Sox were convinced of this. Which meant they didn't need to be thrown.
It sounds funny. But in chess the most famous aphorism of all might be "The Threat Is Stronger than the Execution" - GM Aron Nimzovich. When the opponent is scared of a certain move (e.g. a curve ball) it is often preferable to batter them with everything else, which they are not set up well to defend. Like a boxer with a huge right hand, who cuts enemies up with left jabs and hooks. Another example is the 49'ers terrified of Marshawn Lynch, who carries the ball only 11 times as the Seahawks score 34 points.
Remember, K-Pax is the guy with a hot fastball wild in the zone and half of an offspeed pitch. The offspeed pitch allows him to battle the cheating hitters to some extent. But Zeus is the one who fills up the strike zone and who wields offspeed stuff as a consistent threat.
The Sox' feel for the game told them that Paxton COULD throw his slider and/or curve any time he wanted. Major leaguers think a couple steps ahead of us.
Q. How does the Sox' first-pitch passivity play in?
A. Remember too, 80% of "pitchability" is reading a hitter's aggressiveness. The Sox' hitters are easily the most "patient" (passive?) in the league. Paxton just kept hammering them with fastballs.
In aikido this is called "enter when pulled, turn when pushed." A drunk comes charging down the train tracks, use a "soft" hip toss (like a changeup). A scared opponent is backing up a little, WHAM throw a right hand down the centerline; he won't punish you for it.
Q. Did Paxton need to command the fastball hair-fine to get away with all those stolen strikes?
A. His command was good, not great. But that easy velocity was just hilarious. As Segura said "it was fun to watch" for the infielders.
Q. So why the offspeed stuff with two strikes.
A. You could practically see the terror in the Sox' eyes once they had two strikes. With 2 strikes, every *American* pro baseball player is obligated to start the bat early because he's not allowed the "embarrassment" of getting blown away with a challenge fastball. (The difference between NPB and MLB.) So any low slider or curve was a GIMME strikeout. This video wasn't actually from Monday but here's a batter swinging at a curve ... that bounces out in front of the plate. LOL.
Q. Leaving us where.
A. That was Paxton's 4th consecutive "Zeus" performance and he's 5-0, 1.48 in July ... do you remember his first 7 games, in which he was 4-0, 1.27 and didn't allow a homer in his first 50 innings? That's not a hot streak. It's what happens when James Paxton owns his stuff.
Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid,