Raul Ibanez will be the subject of tomorrow morning’s headlines, but Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez owned the Yankees on Wednesday night. The rookie right-hander struck out eight and walked none in seven innings at Yankee Stadium. The one run he surrendered was the result of Adam Jones taking two steps in on a Derek Jeter “triple” that ended up over the center fielder’s head.
Gonzalez just doesn’t seem to understand the fact that Yankee Stadium is a difficult place to pitch. He’s made three starts there and gone 2-0 with a 2.18 ERA and a 25/1 K/BB ratio in 20 2/3 innings. It would have been 3-0 if Jim Johnson could have held the lead tonight.
The 28-year-old Gonzalez may well be the biggest surprise of all of the surprises on the Baltimore roster. A one-time Angels farmhand, he was selected by the Red Sox in the Dec. 2008 Rule 5 draft. He hurt his elbow the next spring, spent the entire 2009 season on the DL and then showed little in the Boston farm system the next two years. In 2011, he went 0-7 with a 5.40 ERA at three levels of the minors. The Orioles signed him last winter as a minor league free agent, and now he’s dominating the Yankees in the postseason. It’s a funny game, that’s for sure.
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.