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James Paxton on diminished velocity: “I’m concerned”

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The Yankees’ left-hander talks about his second poor outing in a row.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

James Paxton has had a nightmare start to the 2020 season. Penciled in as the team’s number two starter, Paxton got shelled in both of his outings to date, allowing a combined six earned runs in four innings of work. In fact, the Yankees’ only loss this season came when Paxton failed to a record an out in the second inning of a July 25th start against the Nationals.

More concerning than the poor results, Paxton has experienced a severe decline in his fastball velocity. Last year, Big Maple averaged 95.4 mph on his fourseamer. This year, through two starts, he’s averaging 91.8 mph. Yikes!

The 2020 season, with its delayed start, can lead fans to give pitchers the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their velocity. Paxton underwent back surgery to remove a peridiscal cyst at the start of spring training, as well. It’s important to keep that in mind.

Paxton, though, doesn’t attribute his poor outings to either. He thinks it’s more of a mechanical problem.

“I’m concerned,” he told reporters after the game via a Zoom call, “I’m trying to do everything I can to figure out what’s going on. I don’t know if it’s just going to take some time to build it back up, but I’ll get back to looking at the video tomorrow, try to make some more tweaks and just figure out what I can do.”

When asked about his mechanics, he noted that he tried to correct a posture issue on the mound.

“Well, I was trying to make an adjustment out there tonight, by staying up a little taller. Last start I was kind of bending over too far. So I feel like I made that adjustment, but I’ll have to look at the tape and see what it looks like, and then just continue to search and try to find what else is going on.”

That males some sense, but even with standing up straighter, Paxton’s release point is lower than it’s ever been in his career.

Aaron Boone addressed Paxton’s start after the game, and he echoed the southpaw’s assessment that it has more to do with mechanics than health.

“First thing, I feel like he’s healthy,” Boone noted right off the bat, “and I feel like he feels good. So I think he’s frustrated that it’s not coming out like he’s capable of. You know, I do think it’s a little bit mechanically related, a little bit unlocking him bio-kinetically, and getting all those parts in sync that make him special.”

“We just gotta continue to work alongside to help him really find it, and I believe it’s in there,” Boone continued.

Thankfully, the Yankees have the best resources to straighten Paxton out in Matt Blake, Sam Briend, and Eric Cressey. Those three represent the sharpest minds in pitching and biomechanics, working on the bleeding edge of the sport. Here’s hoping they can get him back into form, because a competitive Paxton gives an already-great team that much more of an advantage.