It is safe to the say James Paxton, or the Big Maple, has not lived up to the hype in the Big Apple. The Yankees and Brian Cashman thought they were acquiring an ace in the big lefty from Seattle but he just hasn’t quite performed at that level. His earned run average sits at 4.20 right now and he has yet to find a groove this season.
Many are getting vibes from Sonny Gray’s 2018 stint with Yankees, but the two pitchers really aren’t having similar seasons. To begin, at this point in the year Gray’s earned run average was nearly a full run above what Paxton’s is now. Paxton also has a better K/9, strikeout percentage, BB/9, and FIP. But besides beating him in most statistical categories, they just haven’t had similar seasons in general. On the outside, yes, they’re both pitchers who have struggled. Nobody is saying Paxton has been the ace he always has been in Seattle, but if you break down each of their performances game by game there’s a pretty big difference.
Last year, Sonny Gray got in his own way. He came out of the gate in April giving up 20 earned runs in 27 IP to start the season. His game logs show about one great performance per month through June after multiple bad performances. He appeared to be teetering on the edge of a breakthrough but never found it. Also, if you take a closer look at those great performances, two things ring true, the majority of them were away games played against either the Blue Jays, Orioles, and Royals, three horrible teams. To piggy-back on that, Gray clearly was just not built for New York. Pretty much every statistical category for his 2018 season was better on the road than it was at home (ERA, runs allowed, HR allowed, BB, K, BAA, and wOBA).
Now, nobody would define Paxton as a consistent pitcher this year by any means, but he certainly hasn’t been as up and down as Gray last year. Paxton has shown signs of brilliance just like Gray did but against much better teams. He has already proven to Yankee fans he can handle the big stage as he has shut down both the Red Sox and the Astros. On top of this, his home numbers are better than his away numbers.
In order for Paxton’s year to match Gray’s, he’d have to consistently get worse as the year goes on. If you disregard Paxton’s last performance against the Rockies, he’s coming off two good performances against the Rays, another good opponent, letting up four earned runs in 12 IP while striking out 18. At this time last year, Gray was moved to the bullpen. Paxton just helped extend the division lead.