If you’re at all like me, you check the MLB.com Probable Pitchers page just about every morning. I have a pretty good handle on who the Yanks are usually starting, but with today’s crop of stellar pitching, you never know when something special might happen.
Yankee fans, this could be one of those days (maybe take a very, very late and long lunch?). The returning James Paxton faces off with San Diego Padres phenom Chris Paddack in a marquee duel of high-strikeout hurlers. Paxton, of course, has already racked up two 12-strikeout turns this season and famously punched out 17 in a start last season. (Oh, and threw a no hitter.) Paddack hasn’t quite reached those heights yet (he sat down 11 in a start this season), but his potential is unmistakable. Just look at this nasty thing:
In about 51 innings, Paddack has a sterling 1.93 ERA. The young Padre has a strikeout rate near 29 percent; his walk rate is a meager 5.6 percent; his home run rate is a solid 8.3 percent. Considering this franchise landed a marquee free agent last winter in Manny Machado and promptly paired him with one of the game’s best prospects in Fernando Tatis Jr. San Diego fans have reason to be excited. It’s not hard to get visions of grandeur, especially with Paddack. That’s what young flamethrowers do to us; truly, the list of big leaguers with stuff that rivals Paddack’s is short.
Fortunately, the Yankees are starting one against him:
With all of our (reasonable!) excitement over Domingo German‘s encouraging start to the season, perhaps we’ve already lost sight a bit of Big Maple. After a brutal start in Houston, Paxton fixed a mechanical flaw and proceeded to kick some serious butt in his next three starts: 19.2 IP, 32 K, 4 BB, 10 H, 1.37 ERA. It wasn’t just chopping up weak competition either, although the putrid Kansas City and San Francisco lineups surely helped; Paxton was working both sides of the plate and finishing hitters off just like he had last season. He looked like Paxton again. His cutter tunnels perfectly with that heavy, high-90s fastball.
His recent IL stint is par for the course so far in his career, frustrating but not necessarily alarming. Alas, now he’s back, giving the Yankees some stability to a rotation staggered by injury and bouts of mediocrity. German has already begun to regress to the mean (calm down: he’s good but not a Cy Young candidate); Masahiro Tanaka is the anchor, if at times shaky; JA Happ is a walking panic attack; CC Sabathia could return soon and Luis Severino … well …
Paxton, at his best, is the kind of horse that can carry a team through a postseason run. Big strikeout hurlers can solve a lot of problems. The Yankees don’t need Paxton to be a savior; no, just being himself is good enough.