In his first season with the Yankees, James Paxton had his extreme highs and lows, but was it an overall success for the big left-hander?
The New York Yankees acquired James Paxton on November 19, 2018, in exchange for Justus Sheffield and two other prospects. The Yankees had high hopes for Big Maple for 2019 and overall it was a good year. I’m going to break this review up into three parts: pre-injury, post-injury struggles, and resurgence.
Pre Injury: March-May
Stats: 3-2, 59 K, 13ER/41 innings
James Paxton’s first couple of starts with the Yankees went well, for the most part. He started off with a start at home against the O’s where he pitched to a no-decision. Two starts later, he ran into pitch-tipping trouble in Houston. Paxton earned half of his pinstripes early on in the season in a battle against the Redsox. He showed the Yankees and their fans that he was the real deal when he threw an absolute gem. He shutout the Redsox for eight innings and looked unhittable.
Paxton continued to cruise through the first two months of the season striking out tons of hitters. His first two months with the team were amazing as he was pitching like an ace in time when Severino continued to suffer setbacks. But, sadly all good things but come to an end, well at least for a bit.
Post Injury: June-July
Stats: 2-4, 58 K, 34ER/48innings
On May 3, Paxton was pitching against the Twins. It was a cold wet day and he seemed to not have his stuff at all. He ended up leaving the game with a left knee injury. He returned roughly three weeks later and he was a totally different pitcher, and not in a good way. Paxton’s once electric fastball had lost some of its speed and was hovering around the mid to low 90’s. He was getting rocked each and every game, and something else to point out is that he had seemed to forget about his curve. A pitch that makes him that much better.
Along with the decreased velocity, Paxton had lost a lot of his control and was all over the place. Fans quickly started to turn on Paxton as he had forgotten to pitch. But finally, Larry Rothschild did something to help the pitcher, he told Paxton to start throwing the curve more and he did just that.
Stats: 10-0, 69 K, 17ER/61innings.
Paxton needed a fix as he was lost. One thing that made him very successful in the early parts of the season was the fact that he was using all of his 3 pitches, his fastball, curve, and cutter. During the middle part of the season, Paxton was only throwing his fastball and cutter, which don’t have that much drop off in speed compared to the curve. Once Paxton started throwing the curve, he took off. He went on a streak where he won 10 straight starts and finally was looking like the pre-injury Paxton. The curveball wasn’t just a throw-in pitch, it was borderline unhittable as batters hit only .178 off of it. Paxton is a complete pitcher when he is throwing all three of his pitches.
If James Paxton pitches the way he did at the end of the 2019 season in 2020, then the Yankees may have three top-10 Cy Young candidates.