Phil Hughes rolls to 14th win, sports third best K/BB ratio ever

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Phil Hughes outdueled Corey Kluber on Thursday, allowing one run over seven innings as the Twins beat the Indians 4-1. It was his fourth straight victory and 14th of the season. It was also his 15th consecutive start with one or no walks, the longest such streak for a starter since Cliff Lee had 20 in a row from July 2012-April 2013.

Hughes now has a 148/15 K/BB ratio in 165 innings on the year. If the season ended today, that’d be the third best ratio for a qualified starter since 1901.

11.0 – Bret Saberhagen – 1994 Mets (143/13 in 177 1/3 IP)
10.3 – Cliff Lee – 2010 Mariners/Rangers (185/18 in 212 1/3 IP)
9.9 – Phil Hughes – 2014 Twins
9.6 – Curt Schilling – 2002 Diamondbacks (313/33 in 259 1/3 IP)
8.9 – Pedro Martinez – 2000 Red Sox (284/32 in 217 IP)
8.9 – Greg Maddux – 1997 Braves (177/20 in 232 2/3 IP)
8.5 – Pedro Martinez – 1999 Red Sox (313/37 in 213 1/3 IP)
8.3 – Ben Sheets – 2004 Brewers (264/32 in 237 IP)
7.9 – Carlos Silva – 2oo5 Twins (71/9 in 188 1/3 IP)
7.9 – Greg Maddux – 1995 Braves (181/23 in 209 2/3 IP

Of course, the season isn’t ending today. And Hughes doesn’t actually have the best ratio in baseball this year. That belongs to Hisashi Iwakuma, who is at 120/12 K/BB in 147 innings. Plus, Clayton Kershaw isn’t far behind at 9.2, having struck out 174 and walked 19 in 145 1/3 innings.

Barring disaster, both of those guys will join Hughes in qualifying for the ERA title, and the entire top 10 above could get rewritten. Heck, David Price is at 7.6 right now and could squeeze in himself with a stellar finish. It’s certainly a new era as far as K/BB ratios go.

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.