Game 98: Paxton Underperforms as Rockies Smash Yanks 8-4

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Well, so ends the Yankees 5-game winning streak. They “fall” to 64-34 on the season as they lost by more than 2 runs for the first time since June 23. Boston lost to Baltimore 5-0, mustering just one hit, and lost that series overall, so that’s nice. Tampa Bay won, though. Oh well.

Let’s get right to the takeaways, since this was a blah one.

1. A Tough Outing for James Paxton: Fair to say that start was not among James Paxton’s finest, eh? His final line for the day ended up at 3.1 IP, 5 H, 7 R (4 ER), 3 BB, 6 K, 1 HR on an inefficient 63 pitches. Believe it or not, there’s actually quite a bit to unpeel here.

Let’s start with the obvious: the first inning woes continue. On his 2nd pitch of the afternoon, Paxton allowed a lead-off home run to Charlie Blackmon, and it wasn’t a cheapie. Check it out:

That one traveled 373 feet into the Yankee bullpen, and while Paxton didn’t surrender anything else in the inning, he is still a liability in the 1st. His splits continue to be dramatic, per YES Network’s James Smyth:

I mean, yeesh. Blackmon is a good hitter, hitting .318/.364/.599 (131 wRC+) so it’s not the end of the world, but this is certainly a real trend at this point. Derek explored it in the mailbag–turns out that Paxton’s velocity really increases as the game goes on, so check that out if you missed it.

This time, though, Paxton didn’t get any better as the game went on. He actually got a bit worse. After a nice 2nd inning, here is the breakdown for the 3rd inning:

  1. Walk to Chris Ianetta (really?)
  2. Tony Wolters sacrifice bunt, error charged to Luke Voit (1st and 2nd, no out)
  3. Charlie Blackmon single (bases loaded, no outs)
  4. 5-pitch Trevor Story strikeout (after a 2-0 count)
  5. 2-run Arenado double (3-2 pitch after a 2-0 count)
  6. Daniel Murphy groundball (Voit threw home, getting Blackmon in a rundown)
  7. 2-run David Dahl base hit
  8. Ryan McMahon strikeout

This is pretty self-explanatory, obviously, but I want to focus on a few things. One, that Luke Voit error was a real blow to the inning. Paxton was awful–you just can’t walk 87 wRC+ catcher Chris Ianetta–but that error didn’t help. That’s why 3 of these 4 runs go unearned for him, but still Paxton has to be a lot better there.

Two, it really felt like Paxton was this close to both getting out of the inning and then again this close to limiting the damage, even after the Arenado double. After falling behind Arenado 2-0, the count evened at 2-2 and he almost got Arenado to chase for strike three. Instead, Arenado just held up and eventually hit a double.

Now, there’s no good way to attack a hitter as good as Arenado, there really isn’t, but look at the location of those last two pitches in the AB compared to Arenado’s wOBA by contact zone:

Yeah, those are right in the sweet spot. Not really any surprises that Arenado did damage on that pitch. Here’s the video:

And then, finally, with two outs in the inning, Paxton jumped ahead of David Dahl 2-0. At this point, after an error and the bases loaded and no outs for Story, Arenado, and Murphy, it looked like Paxton might escape with just two runs. That would have been pretty good, all things considered. Instead, he left one right out over the plate:

And Dahl did this:

Blagh. Very frustrating. After a strikeout, the 3rd inning was over, but Paxton threw 61 pitches and the Yankees were down 5-1. Not ideal.

(Two more runs would be charged to Paxton in the 4th, on another rally that began with an inexplicable leadoff walk to Chris Ianetta.)

Now, Colorado is a good offense–their 5.45 runs/per game ranks 4th in baseball, behind just the Twins, Yankees, and Red Sox–but Paxton has to be better than this. He really hasn’t hit his stride since returning, and you have to think the Yankees were expecting more from Big Maple so far. Maybe he’s still hurt. Whatever it is, Paxton has just got to be better.

2. Crushed By the Top of the Order: Incredibly, 8th hitter and catcher Chris Ianetta walked 3 whole times today! 3 whole times, all to lead off an inning. He scored every damn time. That is inexcusable by Yankee pitching even on a good day, but it’s particularly dangerous when they go against an offense like Colorado’s. Coors effect or not (there is tons of evidence to suggest that park factors penalize Coors too much, for what it’s worth), the top of that order can really hit. They made the Yanks pay today.

Blackmon, Story, Arenado, and Murphy today hit .421 (8-19) with 3 2B, 1 HR, 5 RBI, and 4 runs scored. That will not get the job done at all, guys. They were a constant pain to the Yanks and they really did most of the damage. Good hitters all, but still so infuriating (and helpless) to watch. Oh well.

3. Mike Tauchman Continues to Impress: Back when the Yankees traded for Mike Tauchman right before Opening Day, Lindsey Adler reported (subs req’d) that the Yankees believed that Tauchman had “Luke Voit-like” qualities. What that meant was that his minor league batted ball data suggested that he hit the ball really hard–in other words, that he was a hidden gem. (Such data is proprietary to teams, meaning we can’t see it to verify, and since Tauchman had only 69 MLB PA prior to 2019, we can’t go off that, either.) Derek wrote about his background for River Ave Blues.

Now, I’m not suggesting that Tauchman is going to go on a Voit-like tear or emerge as an All-Star worthy player or anything, but I do think we’re close to the point where we have to wonder if Tauchman’s earning himself a role on the team. Here’s what he did today:

Tauchman really struck that ball, which traveled 364 feet to right and left the bat at 105 mph. That pitch was located right down the middle of the plate. Check it out:

That’s an 89-mph slider right there, which is just begging to be hit, but Tauchman still hit it. On the series, he went .571 (4-7) with 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBI, and 4 runs. He displayed true hustle and great defense against his former team, and honestly, he looks like the perfect 4th outfielder. Check out his Statcast fielding and running statistics on the season:

  • Catch Percent Added: 6% (meaning he catches 91% of all balls hit at him when Statcast estimates those exact balls would be caught 85% of the time by an average outfielder)
  • Jump: 0.6 feet above average (top 10%)
  • Reaction: 0.3 feet above average (top 10%)
  • Burst: 0.5 feet above average(top 10%)
  • Sprint Speed: 27.9 feet per second (top 75%)

Plus, we know his arm is good. And, he’s hitting. He has a .248/.338/.464 (111 wRC+) with 6 HR and 9 2B in 31 hits (about 50% XBH%) and a 12.0% BB% on the season. That’s not bad for a 4th outfielder, now is it? In fact, it’s pretty much ideal, especially when you couple it with the fact that he was able to slot in last minute as Gardner was a late scratch (more on that below). Very impressive stuff from Tauchman. Yet again, never doubt Brian Cashman.

4. Another Good Day for the Bullpen: The stats say what they say, but in my mind, the Yankees have the best bullpen in baseball and it’s not close. Others are performing well, but on a talent-per-arm basis, I think it’s the Yankees and it’s not close. Today is one of those games where it’s easy to miss because of the fact that the Yankees were losing for most of the game, but check it out.

Green, Ottavino, Tarpley, and Chapman combined for 5.1 IP as a unit, allowing just 5 hits, 1 R (0 ER), 3 BB and generating 7 strikeouts. Don’t sleep on how important that is. The Yankees were getting crushed by the time Paxton’s line was done–it was 7-1–and the bullpen just shut the door right there, more or less. It’s a rare day when a team can come back from a 6-run deficit, but the bullpen gave the Yankees potent offense every chance to do so today. They deserve props for that.

Leftovers

  • Gary Sánchez Catcher Interference: In that weird 3rd inning I wrote about in-depth above, there was a lucky break for the Yanks in the McMahon at-bat that eventually ended the inning. I can’t find the video but on his 1st swing of the AB, McMahon’s swing absolutely hit Sánchez’s glove on the backswing, but it wasn’t called. I don’t know where to look this up (I didn’t look hard at all) but it seems like this is happening to Gary a lot this season. More than in year’s past, at least. I wonder if he’s changed up his stance behind the plate or something, and I wonder if that has anything to do with the better blocking/worse framing (with public data, word is that teams view his framing differently). Who knows? Just a thing worth noting, I guess.
  • Late Scratch for Brett Gardner: Brett Gardner was originally slotted into today’s lineup, but was scratched at the last minute due to left knee soreness, per NJ.com’s Brendan Kuty. After an offseason of preaching about how Gardner needs a lot of rest and can’t play every day, he has played in 92 of 97 games this season. Baseball, predictions, Suzyn. You get the gist.
  • Human Cyborg Luke Voit Now Has a Faceguard: After taking a fastball to the chin, Voit now has an extended helmet with one of those facemasks that goes down to the chin, much like Stanton does. Unlike Stanton, though, Voit somehow did not break his face when a 91-mph fastball hit it. Instead, like an actual cyborg, he played today and honestly? You couldn’t even tell by looking at him that the dude was smacked in the face with a 91-mph fastball today. I know DJLM is the machine, but I think we might have to reevaluate that one. Crazy.
  • Aaron Hicks is Getting Hot: Aaron Hicks is up to .250/.340/.472 (112 wRC+) and 10 HR in 209 AB on the season now. He’s quietly been getting back to form over the past few weeks, and his line is reflecting that after what was a rough start from his return from injury. He’s really been red-hot recently, though. Here is Hicks’ line since June 22, in 86 plate appearances: .324/.395/.608 (158 wRC+) with 6 2B, 5 HR, 16 runs scored, 14 RBI, and an 11.6% BB%. His stellar defense has never changed. Aaron is a real stud, and he’s reminding everyone why the Yankees extended him before the season. In addition to a walk, Aaron hit a 2-run homer today. Enjoy:

Up Next

That concludes this current homestand. The team will now travel to Minnesota to take on the first-place Twins. Tomorrow’s game will begin at 8:10 pm EST at Target Field with CC Sabathia (5-4, 4.06 ERA) taking on Martín Pérez (8-3, 4.10 ERA). Enjoy the rest of your afternoon, everyone.

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7 Comments

  1. Dani

    “In that weird 3rd inning I wrote about in-depth above, there was a lucky break for the Yanks in the McMahon at-bat that eventually ended the inning. I can’t find the video but on his 1st swing of the AB, McMahon’s swing absolutely hit Sánchez’s glove on the backswing, but it wasn’t called.”

    I don’t know why or how the Yanks got lucky there? Backswing interference is an interference by the batter, not the catcher and results in a dead ball.

  2. Dani

    Aside of his hot May, Gary is hitting .221/.301/.434 this year, which would bevery close to last year’s slash line. Maybe last year wasn’t a fluke.

  3. bardos

    Is Paxton on the road to becoming the Sonny Gray of 2019?

  4. RetroRob

    “(with public data, word is that teams view his framing differently)”

    What does this sentence mean? I’ve read it several times and it’s not clicking. Are you saying he has bad framing based on public stats, but teams view it differently, meaning positively?

    • Bobby

      Sorry, Rob — I thought I replied to this earlier. I realize that this sentence wasn’t all that clear, but yes, that’s precisely what it means. The public framing data we can see all shows a precipitous drop-off from 2017-18 to 2019, as his blocking has improved. Available research also suggests that better blockers are worse framers, and vice versa, and also that framing is more valuable. However, I’ve seen a few people who’d know say that several team evaluators have told them that teams’ internal metrics aren’t as sour on Gary’s framing as the public data, which is just something I think is interesting, if poorly expressed here.

  5. I really believe Paxton’s knee is bothering him and that’s why we haven’t seen his electric stuff.

    That said, we all knew what he was, great stuff, a long, history of mostly nagging injuries and a guy who never threw more than 170 innings in the bigs.

    His WHIP this year is frightening, and it’s not just a few starts skewing the stat.

    Paxton is just another cost-effective patch. True ace’s are scarce, expensive and their shelf life as a #1 is short compared to the length of contract they command.

    I think we have to hope our guys are hot in October and whatever reinforcements they get before eom, get the job done.

  6. Wire Fan

    Per BBref, Sanchez has 3 CI’s this year. He had 0 last year, and 4 in 2017. It’s in the advanced fielding section (column labeled “XI”)

    The Blackmon homer looked crushed, but it was 92mph off the bat. The combo of the juiced ball and the extreme heat made it look well struck – very few flyballs hit at 92mph go out. Still, Paxton needs to figure out the first inning thing.

    The Yankees need some depth from their starters. I think a part of it is the starters chasing the strikeout (Rothschild effect?) and wasting 0-2 or 1-2 pitches trying to setup the strikeout later in the AB. In a tight spot I get it (man on 3rd less than 2 out, guy a 2nd with no out, etc), but they also seem to do this with no one on base or a guy on first or when they have a big lead.

    Paxton has 17 starts this year.
    – he has failed to complete 5 innings in 7 starts (yikes!)
    – he has completed 6 or more innings in just 7 starts
    – he has recorded an out in the 7th inning or later in just 1 start this year (another… yikes!)

    Forget the peripherals, ERA, FIP, etc… The length is not good enough. He should be a virtual lock to pitch 5 innings every start and a decent bet to go 6 or more. Instead it’s worse than a coin flip thus far.

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