On Saturday, August 4, the Blue Jays will play their third game in an extended four game set against the Seattle Mariners. The Mariner’s will send James Paxton to the mound and the Blue Jays will counter with Marco Estrada.
James Paxton created quite the feel-good story earlier this season when he pitched his first no-hitter in his home and native land, Canada. One of the most impressive parts about this no-hitter was that the start required just 99 pitches.
The Canadian’s no-hitter against the Blue Jays was the beginning of a very strong month of May. In six total starts in the month the Mariners hurler managed two complete games, a 10.7 K/9, and a 1.67 ERA.
However, May’s success did not transfer over to other months. This season the lefty, despite his great numbers, has been remarkably inconsistent from month-to-month. In April his ERA sat at 4.00. As already mentioned, it dropped to 1.67 in May, but it also jumped back up to 4.97 in June. Finally, in July he turned it back around and managed a 2.78 ERA.
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One of the key differences between all of these months has been the caliber of competition. While Blue Jays fans laugh gleefully at the prospect of Paxton meeting the Yankees in a one-game playoff, they may want to reconsider. This season against Cleveland, Boston, and New York he has managed ERAs of 6.75, 23.14, and 7.20, respectively.
The only playoff team that he has handled well has been the defending champion, Houston Astros. In three starts against the ‘Stros he has managed a ridiculous 0.87 ERA and has averaged 6.7 innings per start.
Overall, though, the left-hander has had great season numbers. Through 21 starts he has posted a 3.49 ERA, 3.04 FIP, 1.053 WHIP, and 116 ERA+. In total, the left-handed hurler has been worth a good 3.2 fWAR.
The lefty has not offered a lot of variation, in terms of pitching repertoire, this season. The Seattle starter has alternated between a four seam fastball, knuckle-curveball, cutter, and sinker. The pitcher has also thrown an occasional change-up, but, in total, the pitch has been used just 0.4% of the time.
Paxton has thrown his four seam fastball 56.1% of the time this season. The heater is very fast, maintaining an average velocity of 96.23 mph. As well, the four seamer has been quite effective, allowing a .212 BAA. However, the pitch has also allowed 10 home runs this season. But, the starter’s .157 ISO against suggests this high amount of home runs is mainly due to the high use rate of the pitch.
The “Big Maple” has thrown knuckle-curves 20.96% of the time this season. The big breaker is decently quick, averaging a velocity of 81.68 mph, with hard sweeping and dropping action. The hook has been great this year, producing ground balls at a good rate of 51.61% of balls in play and whiffs at a good rate of 37.21% of swings. Overall, the pitch has allowed a small .222 BAA and just one home run.
The 29-year-old has fired home cutters 14.58% of the time this season. The cut-fastball is a decent drop in velocity from the heater, averaging a speed of 89.58 mph. The pitch has been great when he’s been ahead, producing whiffs on 40.78% of swings. In total, this has translated to 60 strikeouts on the year. As well, despite being used about 40% less than the four seamer, the cutter has produced just eight less strikeouts, while walking 25 less batters.
The left-handed hurler completes his pitching repertoire with occasional sinkers. The sinking-fastball has been used just 7.86% of the time this season, averaging a velocity of 95.70. The sinker has done its job decently well, producing ground balls on 51.85% of balls in play. However, the pitch has been hit incredibly hard, surrendering a terrible .343 BAA and awful .657 SLGA.
Always a strikeout pitcher, the Canadian has found a different level this season. Through 21 starts he has produced a crazy 32.3% K-rate and 11.61 K/9. For reference, his K/9 places him fourth in the majors, just behind Max Scherzer. Despite enduring deep strikeout counts, the lefty has not allowed many walks, surrendering a below-average 6.5% BB-rate and 2.35 BB/9.
The Blue Jays have not had much success against the British Columbia native in their careers. By far the best, Aledmys Diaz has gone two-for-three against the southpaw with two doubles. However, all of Curtis Granderson, Russell Martin, and Devon Travis have yet to earn a hit off of the left-hander.
The Blue Jays will be in their home-away-from-home, playing against a Canadian starter on Saturday night. While it is a compelling story, expect a tough game. The Blue Jays have not offered much against Paxton in the past and Marco Estrada did not inspire confidence in his last start. At the very least, Toronto will look to avoid being no-hit for the second time in the same season.