If you had to describe James Paxton’s 2019 season using a couple of words, you’d probably say “up and down.” He has had starts where he throws eight shutout innings, and on the other hand, games where he has been shelled for seven runs. While his overall performance has been inconsistent, there’s one thing for sure: he is a better pitcher when he is in the Bronx.
Prior to being traded to the Yankees over the offseason, Paxton had pitched under the bright lights of Yankee Stadium just once in his entire career. We know pitching at the Stadium is just...different. Yankee fans expect the very best out of every player night in and night out, as they should. But if you can’t live up to the hype, you may heard the “boo-birds” come out. Sonny Gray is the best example of this scenario. Many feared that the Big Maple could run into the same problems as Gray, but he has actually been the exact opposite. Paxton excels at home, and struggles on the road.
When he was with the Mariners in Seattle last year, it was almost foreshadowed that he had this problem. His ERA at T-Mobile Park was 3.35, but away from there, a 4.24. That road ERA isn’t that bad, but it’s almost a full run higher. In 2017, however, his road numbers were a lot better than they have been this year and last year.
This season, the southpaw owns a 3.75 ERA and opponents are slashing a mere .225/.310/.405 when he’s in pinstripes. When he’s not wearing them though, he sports a 5.21 ERA and batters are slashing .312/.355/.588. He has also allowed 10 homers in 60 home innings, compared to 11 homers in 48.1 innings on the road.
James Paxton Home/Away
|Hard Con. %||36.4%||41.6%|
Looking at the comparison further proves that Pax has struggled on the road, but he’s also had some luck go the other way. His xFIP at home is 4.25, but it’s 3.80 away. Along with that and looking at the chart above, his high hard contact rate has led to an astronomical .405 batting average on balls in play. Those are things that are mostly out of his control.
There are some bright spots in his numbers away from home. His K/9 is higher, his walk percentage is lower, and he’s leaving more runners on base. It’s no secret that the Yankees pitching staff has been below average. Some may argue that James Paxton is the most important starter as we head down the final stretch. The Bombers need him to straighten things out on the road, especially heading into the playoffs.
None of us know for sure what the rotation will be like in the postseason. Tanaka could start a game one, but so could German, and maybe even Paxton. Because of his lack of success on the road, Aaron Boone and his team may choose to work around that and have him only throw at home, if possible. If not, Paxton will need to find a way to improve those numbers and help his team win in the big game on the road.