There will come a time when Albert Pujols getting the start at third base will no longer be newsworthy. To be honest, it probably came the last time he started at third base. But hey, it’s almost 5, I’ve been up since 4AM, I’m getting punchy and posting about this seems better than trying to get worked up about something.
So, Pujols at third against the Astros. This will be his third start and fourth overall appearance there. So far he hasn’t done himself or his team any harm. But of greater interest to people is that, if he keeps doing this, he’s going to give fantasy owners a midsummer bonus, inasmuch as in some fantasy leagues like Yahoo!’s, he’ll have third base eligibility with two more starts or six more spot appearances. Then you can just trot him out over there all willy nilly.
All of which explains my vague distaste for fantasy baseball and, in this instance, real baseball. Because no matter how he does over there, having Albert Pujols as your third baseman at this stage of his career seems to violate the laws of man and God. But I guess that’s my problem, not Pujols’, Tony La Russa’s or that guy in your fantasy league who is going to get all giddy when he can use Pujols at third.
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.