Do they “build you up just so they can bring you down?”

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This is less news than random deep thought territory, but whatever: Stephen Strasburg gave a quote over the weekend and Andy Martino tackles it. A well-known cliche about hype, made in reference to Zack Wheeler: “They build you up just so they can bring you down.” That idea, at least in baseball, has always bugged me, in much the same way it seems to bug Martino.

Why? Because it suggests an actual desire on the part of whoever “they” are — be it fans, media, talk radio, whoever — to actually tear down ballplayers. I don’t think that desire exists. And even if the tear-down does eventually happen, I do not think it means that the build up was cynical or calculated.

To be fair, there are some who do this. Professional trolls like T.J. Simers and a lot of the sports yakkers on the more obnoxious end of the spectrum seem to enjoy ripping players for the hell of it. But I don’t think they’re anywhere close to the majority or that whatever they do plays a major role in the hype machine to which Strasburg is referring.

I think the hype of guys like Strasburg and Wheeler is borne of perpetual, unstoppable yet irrational optimism. A genuine excitement whenever a young prospect shows unusual promise. Especially pitchers. Fans act like they’re the second coming. A large part of the media abdicates its critical thinking and plays the “on pace” game or compares extremely early results to that of Hall of Famers. The line between fan and analysis is almost erased and those who try to be cautious are scolded as kill-joys.

Against that backdrop there is almost always going to be disappointment, at least comparatively speaking. Strasburg is still great but, amazingly, is not yet Tom Seaver at his height. Wheeler has great stuff but, amazingly, is not a great pitcher with 16 whole innings under his belt. There are lots of guys like each of them every year yet, because of that early hype, they seem like disappointments and, inevitably, the cold water splashing everyone feels like a tear-down when it’s really just reality.

Anyway, no real point to this other than to observe that just as most players are not as good as their early hype, most criticism of those players is less hate and agenda-driven than it is natural disappointment after irrational expectations.

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

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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.