I’m not a weather geek, buy my old man worked for the National Weather Service for 40 years, so I can speak their language. And I’ve only been to San Diego a couple of times, but my brother lives there, so I can speak that language a little bit too. So, of course, when there is a story that combines baseball, weather and San Diego, I’m gonna link it. It’s all about that “marine layer” those people out there go on about and how it impacts offense at Petco Park.
The afternoon/evening differences are something I’ve seen first hand. The last time I went to Petco there was a minor league game there — Lake Elsinore vs. I have no idea — and the ball was flying out of that place. A couple hours later the darkness fell, the marine layer rolled in and the Padres and Blue Jays couldn’t get anything to carry at all. And it wasn’t for a lack of square contact. Stuff just got knocked the hell down.
It’s a neat place to watch a baseball game for a lot of reasons, but the weather dynamics, such as they are, are one of the cooler reasons. At least if you’re a faux-weather/baseball/San Diego geek.
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.