Reds surprisingly pick Volquez over Arroyo for Game 1 start

2 Comments

Bronson Arroyo indicated following his final regular season start that he expected to start Game 1 of the NLDS for the Reds, but instead Dusty Baker announced yesterday that Edinson Volquez will take the mound in the playoff opener.
Volquez returned from Tommy John elbow surgery in July and was demoted to the minors following a rough stretch in August, but has a 1.95 ERA, .183 opponents’ batting average, and 31/8 K/BB ratio in 27.2 innings since rejoining the Reds’ rotation.
In addition to Volquez’s strong post-demotion performance Baker seemingly indicated that Arroyo’s struggles against left-handed hitters played a part in the Game 1 decision, noting that “the Phillies have a lot of lefties.”
Lefties have hit .285 with a .786 OPS off Arroyo this season, compared to a .185 batting average and .576 OPS versus righties, and his career splits are similarly extreme. Volquez has been much been tougher on lefties, holding them to a .227 batting average and .314 slugging percentage, although he has allowed a .377 on-base percentage that includes a poor 33/25 K/BB ratio versus lefties.
By starting the NLDS opener Volquez is also set up to pitch a potential Game 5, with Arroyo, Johnny Cueto, and either Homer Bailey or Travis Wood each in line to make just one start.

James Paxton will “nerd out big-time” to stay healthy next year

Getty Images
Leave a comment

To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.

So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”

When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.

Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.