Playoff ratings were up 20 percent from last year

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So much for the whole “baseball is dying” theme. MLB issued the following press release this afternoon declaring this year’s playoffs as a ratings success:

For the entire month of Postseason baseball beginning with the Wild Card games, viewership increased +20% across FOX, TBS and MLB Network (6.3 million average viewers), the largest year-over-year increase since 2009. In addition, 2013 marks the first year since 2001 that viewership increased for every round of the Postseason as well as the All-Star Game.

The World Series finished with an average of 14.9 million viewers, up +17% over last year and marking the largest year-over-year viewership increase for the World Series since 2009. As for Game 6 on Wednesday night, 19.2 million viewers tuned in, making it the most-watched MLB game since Game 7 of the 2011 World Series, based on Nielsen data. The game was the highest-rated show across all of television on Wednesday, and FOX once again won the night in primetime against all competition, something it has done on all six nights of the World Series.

There are some caveats with this announcement, as the Associated Press points out. Last year’s World Series had the lowest average rating ever and didn’t have much drama to it, so it didn’t take much for this one to be a marked improvement by comparison. This year’s World Series will also go down as the lowest-rated for a matchup that went at least six games. However, it’s perfectly logical to see this as a sign of the times with television viewership on the whole as opposed to “sky is falling” evidence of baseball’s downfall. All in all, a pretty good month for MLB.

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.