Seattle Mariners hurler James Paxton was sent to the Disabled List with a strained lat this week. Paxton becomes yet another Mariners starting pitcher to be placed on the DL, as he joins Hisashi Iwakuma, Taijuan Walker, Stephen Pryor, and Brandon Maurer. It’s a shame, as the left-hander had two excellent outings, both of which resulted in wins for the M’s.
Dating back to his debut last year, here are Paxton’s major league numbers through his first six career starts. They paint a picture of a very good starting pitcher.
All those are very impressive, and in his first two starts in 2014, Paxton struck out 30 percent of hitters while walking just 4.7 percent. Since coming back from his knee injury, his control has been much better, and with that fastball and his curveball, he’ll get strikeouts aplenty.
Speaking of his fastball, Paxton’s 94.7 average fastball is the 10th highest among starters who have thrown at least 30 innings since 2013. Furthermore, it’s the top velocity for a left-handed pitcher. With the exception of David Price from 2010-12 there hasn’t been a left-handed pitcher that has managed that velocity. In fact, besides Price, there have been only four seasons in the Pitch f/x era where a left-handed starting pitcher has averaged at least 94 miles per hour.
Thus far in 2014 Jake McGee is the only left-handed pitcher to have thrown more fastballs traveling at least 95 miles per hour than Paxton. Six starts is hardly a big enough sample to rely on, but thus far, Paxton has shown all the trappings of a top of the rotation major league starter.
Left-handed pitchers that throw hard and throw strikes are good, and often very good. Throw in a curveball that has a 24.7 percent swinging strike rate in an admittedly small sample, and it’s hard to understand what those scouting reports that used the word reliever were trying to tell us. He’s not the Erik Bedard comp people have been trying to make. Changes to his delivery, release point, and a healthy knee have made a big difference.
With Felix Hernandez, and a healthy Iwakuma, Paxton, and Walker, it’s not hard to imagine the Mariners having a very good rotation. Maurer, Pryor, or Erasmo Ramirez could hopefully be a serviceable end of the rotation.
Roenis Elias and Chris Young will see starts with Paxton down, and Blake Beavan might be pushed into the rotation. It sure would be nice to have Chris Capuano right about now. Hopefully, Paxton will be able to come back soon. This Mariners teams appears to have more offensive capability than past squads. If they can help the team stay afloat until the rotation returns to full strength, there’s reason to be cautiously optimistic.