New Mariner Royalty
Watch out Felix Hernandez, there is a new ace in town
Felix Hernandez on the decline? Drew Smyly injured? To the untrained eye it would look as if the Mariners rotation is in shambles. But from this cloud of uncertainty, a noble beast has risen, and they call him Sir James A. Paxton.
Paxton has always teased Mariner’s fans with glimpses of a quality starter, but seemed destined to a career of mid-rotation mediocrity. But in the early weeks of 2017 Paxton has been simply flawless. Allowing zero, yes ZERO, runs through his first 3 starts and 21 IP, Paxton is venturing into uncharted territory. While many may shrug it off as another example of the fickle mistress that is small sample size, Paxton may be different.
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Paxton, a Canadian born southpaw, reached a career high (125) in innings pitched in 2016, but still only managed a 107 ERA+, a tick above average. But to truly understand the change that Paxton has underwent, one must look at the second half of his 2016 campaign. In the later half of 2016, Paxton started 12 games, posting an impressive 3.72 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, and an 8.9 K/9, all significantly better than his career averages. More importantly, Paxton underwent significant mechanical changes, including adjusting his arm slot, allowing him to throw nearly 100 MPH on a consistent basis. For a starter reliant on a fastball/curveball combination, this new found velocity could vault him from average to elite. Dare I say ace?
Paxton’s late 2016 success has seemingly carried over into 2017. Paxton’s 107 ERA+ has been replaced in 2017 with with an unquantifiable figure. To date, Paxton has been ‘infinitely’ better than average. While no-one expects Paxton to continue his habit of never giving up runs, his 22:4 K:BB and other exquisite peripherals put him in the company of Kershaw and select other ‘untouchables’.
Paxton has said himself, “I’ve got the power stuff and I need to be aggressive and go after guys.” Recently, he has been doing exactly that, attacking hitters with new found ‘stuff’ that they simply can’t hit. Following his end to 2016, Paxton’s breakout was predicted by many writers heading into this season. What he has managed to do thus far has not only confirmed speculation, but shown glimpses of a lefty that could rival the leagues best.
While King Felix will always be Mariner royalty, his heir, Prince Paxton, is making a case for his throne.