James Paxton got the Yankees off to a terrible start on Saturday night.
Is this a James Paxton hit piece? Absolutely not. But his outing against the Washington Nationals in game two of the 2020 season was far from the start the New York Yankees were hoping for.
The Bombers are already dealing with enough issues on the pitching staff — Luis Severino is out for the year, Aroldis Chapman has COVID-19, and Masahiro Tanaka is working his way back from a head injury — so at the very least everyone was banking on Paxton picking up the slack right from the jump to help alleviate those issues.
But the left-hander didn’t last more than an inning. Manager Aaron Boone yanked him in the second (he didn’t record an out) after the lefty allowed three runs on five hits and a walk … against a Nationals lineup that was without Juan Soto and featured Starlin Castro as the three hitter.
Paxton didn’t give up a run in the first inning (WOOO!!!) but he allowed a triple to Castro and then got shelled in the second. He kicked off that frame by giving up three straight singles, a double and a walk before being replaced by Michael King. The damage could’ve been much more if King didn’t get out of it as quickly and effectively as he did.
The fact of the matter is that a guy of Paxton’s caliber can’t be getting knocked around by Asdrubal Cabrera, Kurt Suzuki, Carter Kieboom, Victor Robles and Michael Taylor. He should be cruising through that part of the order.
But are there velocity issues to be concerned about here? He didn’t have trouble finding the zone at all, but it’s no secret that his off-speed stuff would be much less effective if his fastball is down four miles per hour.
Paxton said after the game that his velocity dropped after the back surgery he underwent in the offseason, but it was the lowest it’s ever been tonight. He did look sharp in the early going of Summer Camp, but was then tattooed by Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge during an intrasquad game not too long ago.
Yankees fans shouldn’t be hitting the panic button just yet, but the reality of the situation is that Paxton doesn’t have much time to figure out his issues. This season is a sprint and the rotation can’t deal with another colossal shortcoming.