Never heard of Steve Boros? Here’s some background. Here’s some more. And here’s a signature accomplishment:
Boros was part of a scout team that filled out reports that fall on the Athletics, the Dodgers’ opponent in the World Series. Among the traits that Boros and his co-workers noticed: Oakland relief ace Dennis Eckersley tended to throw a backdoor slider on 3-2 counts to left-handed hitters.
That was exactly the pitch that pinch-hitter Kirk Gibson launched off Eck for a two-out, bottom-of-the-ninth homer to win Game 1. The Dodgers went on to upset the mighty A’s in five games.
I can’t imagine a situation that would give a bigger rush to a scout. I mean, yes, finding an obscure player, getting him signed and watching him turn into an MVP may be a bigger accomplishment, but that happens over years. With the homer, in one moment Boros and the guys he worked with were able to whoop it up over a series of feats: finding the chink in the mighty Eck’s armor, successfully communicating it to the Dodgers and having a player put it to use.
How many tells like that are missed? How many that are caught get lost someplace between the scout’s notepad and the player in the batter’s box? A bunch I bet. And if Gibson was flying blind up there against Eck, is there any way that he hits that homer? It’s not like he could adjust or muscle a ball out with that gimpy leg of his. The only shot he had was to know where the pitch was going to be before it was thrown. Go watch the replay. He doesn’t put a powerful swing on the ball. Just a perfect swing. Because he knew exactly what was coming.
R.I.P., Steve Boros.
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.