James Paxton

From BR Bullpen

James Alston Paxton
(Big Maple)

BR page

Biographical Information[edit]

James Paxton helped Canada take a Bronze at the 2006 World Junior Championship. He was selected 37th overall in the 2009 amateur draft, by the Toronto Blue Jays, with a pick obtained in compensation for the New York Yankees signing free agent pitcher A.J. Burnett. He was the number 1 starter at the University of Kentucky, going 5-3 with a 5.86 ERA. He had 115 strikeouts and 20 walks over 78 1/2 innings at school. His pitches have reached 97 mph on the radar gun. However, he failed to come to an agreement with the Blue Jays before the August 17th deadline for signing and returned to school.

His college eligibility having expired, he lined up with the Grand Prairie AirHogs of the independent American Association in 2010, going 1-2, 4.08 in 4 starts. He was then selected by the Seattle Mariners in the 10th round of the 2010 amateur draft but did not pitch again that year. He went 6-3, 2.37 and 9-4, 3.05 while climbing up the Mariners' organization in 2011 and 2012, the second year with the Jackson (TN) Generals of the AA Southern League. He had a tougher time in AAA in 2013, when he was 8-11, 4.45 for the Tacoma Rainiers but he was still given his first look at the big leagues when rosters expanded that September.

Paxton made his major league debut with the Mariners on September 7, 2013, defeating the Tampa Bay Rays, 6-2, while pitching 6 innings. He went 3-0, 1.50 in four starts that year, and then 6-4, 3.04 in 13 starts in 2014 in a year limited by injuries. He was again limited to 13 big league starts in 2015, going 3-4, 3.90. There was some concern that his career was stalling at that point, as he could not stay healthy.

As a result of his failure to pitch a full season in the majors, 2016 looked like a key year for Paxton in his development. He pitched well in AAA with Tacoma, going 4-3, 4.26, but was inconsistent in the majors. He won only 2 of 8 big league starts in the first half, with an ERA of 3.91, but then began to pitch better. On September 6th, he struck out four batters in the 1st inning. His second strikeout ended with a wild pitch being swung on and missed by Ian Desmond, who reached first base safely. He wound up striking out 8 Texas Rangers batters in that game, but in only 4 1/3 innings after giving up 6 runs in a 10-7 loss. Overall, in 20 starts for the Mariners, he went 6-7, 3.79 in 121 innings during which he struck out 118 opponents.

He started the 2017 season red hot as he did not give up a run in his first three starts, totaling 21 innings. He was 2-0 over the streak. It was the longest scoreless streak to start a season in team history, and he was only the 10th pitcher ever to start a year with three scoreless starts of 6 or more innings each. In the third of these starts on April 15th against the Rangers, he walked the first batter he faced, Carlos Gomez, then after he was erased on a double play, did not allow another baserunner until he gave up a double to Joey Gallo in the 6th, one of only two hits against him that night in 8 innings, during which he piled up 9 strikeouts. His scoreless streak eventually reached 23 innings before being snapped by the Oakland A's on April 20th. In July, he became the first pitcher in Mariners history to notch six wins in a single month when he went 6-0, 1.37; he was also named the American League Pitcher of the Month. But injuries struck again a few days later, as he suffered a pectoral strain and had to return to the disabled list on August 11th. He finished the season at 12-5, 2.98 in 24 starts, pitching 136 innings.

On May 2, 2018, he recorded 16 strikeouts in 7 innings in a start against the Oakland Athletics. It was the most strikeouts recorded by a pitcher at that point of the the major league season, but he was removed with a 2-0 lead, after throwing only 105 pitches and the bullpen was unable to preserve the lead as Seattle lost the game, 3-2. In his very next start, on May 9th, he got some redemption, as he no-hit the Toronto Blue Jays in Rogers Centre, throwing only 99 pitches in the process and reaching 100 mph on the radar gun in the 9th inning. He became only the second Canadian to throw a no-hitter in major league history, after Dick Fowler, and the first to do so on Canadian soil. It was the sixth no-hitter in M's history, but the first one spun on the road. The game itself lasted a mere 2 hours and 19 minutes as Seattle won, 5-0. He added some more canadiana on July 1st - Canada Day - when he allowed just 2 hits over 8 scoreless innings, striking out 11 batters in the process, to defeat the Kansas City Royals, 1-0. That was also his bobblehead day, his figurine immortalizing an incident on April 5th, when a bald eagle, brought into the ballpark to mark the Minnesota Twins' home opener, mistook his right shoulder for a perch and majestically landed on him. This was of course highly appropriate for a pitcher nicknamed "Big Maple".

Sources[edit]

Further Reading[edit]

  • Greg Johns: "Paxton's progression key for Mariners in '18: Left-hander looks to build off successful year, aims for full season", mlb.com, December 15, 2017. [1]
  • Greg Johns: "Paxton no-hits Blue Jays in Canadian homeland: Lefty's 99-pitch gem is second no-hitter by a Canadian-born player", mlb.com, May 8, 2018. [2]

Related Sites[edit]