Photo: Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire
James Alston Paxton
Height: 6'4" Weight: 220
Bats/Throws: Left / Left
Born: 11/06/1988 in Richmond, British Columbia, Canada
College: University of Kentucky
Nickname: Big Maple
Acquired: Drafted 2010 (4th round)
MLB Debut: 09/07/2013
Free Agent after: 2020 season
Twitter handle: @James_Paxton
Big Maple began the season with a troubling start against Cleveland, getting shelled for six runs in just four-plus innings, and was still hanging on to an ERA over 5.00 at the end of April. He wasn't terrible by any means, but hadn't performed like the Paxton we'd come to expect.
Then came May. Flipping the calendar page seems to have also flipped a switch in Pax—in his first May start, he struck out 16 Oakland A's over seven shutout innings. It was among the most dominant pitching performances you'll ever want to see, and even though he ended up with a no-decision, it could easily have been a high-water mark for the season. But his next start put that night to shame—on May 8th in Toronto, Paxton took the hill in his native Canada and proceeded to no-hit the Blue Jays with just 99 pitches.
Forget the mediocre April. Paxton is the real deal, a hard-throwing ace that can go toe-to-toe with anyone in the league. At this writing he is riding a scoreless-innings streak of 18 and it would not surprise if, either right now or some other time this year, he challenges Orel Hershiser's record of 59 consecutive shutout innings (the most recent serious challenge to that record was in 2015, when Zack Greinke recorded 452⁄3 scoreless innings; the American League record is 552⁄3 scoreless, set by Walter Johnson in 1913).
Having already notched a no-hitter, Paxton still has his goal of pitching 200 innings to meet this year. To do that he'll need to make a full campaign's worth of starts, and he knows that will involve discipline. "It’s all about limiting the amount of inflammation your body experiences after starts and in between them,” Paxton said. “If I can just find more of those little things that can add up to me staying healthy, that’s the goal." Among those little things are reducing if not eliminating dairy products from his diet, bikram yoga, and a "muscle activation technique" program he learned about from Hisashi Iwakuma. "Everyone has their own ideas. I try to sift through things and try the stuff I want to try. I’m going to continue to try and learn and incorporate things that could possibly help me.”