New York Yankees: ALDS Pitching Preview; Paxton vs Jose Berrios

Dillard Barnhart
New York Yankees, James Paxton
Feb 25, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher James Paxton (65) walk back to the dugout at the end of the first inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees and the Minnesota Twins have released their game 1 starters. James Paxton will be toeing the slab for the Yankees and Jose Berrios will be toeing the slab for the Twins. Game 1 of the ALDS will be electric and an intense atmosphere for both pitchers, but who will prevail?

First off, let’s compare both pitchers and determine their strengths and weaknesses. Paxton, a 30-year-old starter from Ladner, Delta, Canada, is a quality ace and has proved so through much of his career. With the Seattle Mariners, Paxton acquired 56 wins and 32 losses in 7 seasons. In those 7 seasons, he pitched 733 innings, posting a 3.50 ERA, 3.28 FIP, 1.20 WHIP and a 117 ERA+.

This season, Paxton acquired a 15-6 record. In 150.2 innings pitched, he posted a 3.82 ERA, 3.86 FIP, 1.28 WHIP and a 3.93 SIERA. He averaged 11.11 K/9 and 1.37 HR/9. According to Fangraphs, 4.54 ERA, 4.51 FIP, 1.32 WHIP, 4.54 SIERA, 8.58 K/9, and 1.44 HR/9 were league averages this season. Paxton is above average in every single category, which means he can be considered an ace.

In his last 10 starts, Paxton was 10-0. In the month of September, he posted a 1.05 ERA, 2.20 FIP, and a 0.78 WHIP in 25.2 innings pitched. Adding to his already impressive month of utter dominance, he averaged 10.52 K/9 and 0.35 HR/9. His fastball velocity, xBA, xSLG, xwOBA, and K% are all in great shape.

The only concerning factor is the amount of walks he gives up. This season, he posted a 3.29 BB/9, with the league average at 2.96 BB/9. Although his walks spiked drastically compared to the last three years, part of that could be in direct correlation to the injury he endured earlier this season. In September, he posted a 2.10 BB/9, which is his lowest of any month this season.

As for Berrios, he is a 25-year-old starter from Bayamón, Puerto Rico. He has pitched for the Twins and their farm system for his entire career. With the Twins, he has acquired 43 wins and 34 losses in 4 seasons. In those 4 seasons, he pitched 596.2 innings, posting a 4.21 ERA, 4.10 FIP, 1.22 WHIP and a 124 ERA+.

This season, Berrios acquired a 14-8 record. In 200.1 innings, he posted a 3.68 ERA, 3.85 FIP, 1.22 WHIP and a 4.28 SIERA. He averaged 8.76 K/9 and 1.17 HR/9. Just like Paxton, Berrios is above average in every category mentioned. As far as overall stats are concerned, Berrios has also pitched better than Paxton this season.

However, if we take a look at Berrios and his splits, he hasn’t pitched as well lately as he did earlier in the season. In the month of August, he posted a 7.57 ERA, 5.19 FIP, and a 1.87 WHIP in 27.1 innings pitched. In the month of September, he posted a 4.31 ERA, 3.79 FIP, and a 1.21 WHIP in 31.1 innings pitched.

It’s all about consistency and whether or not Berrios can reproduce his production from earlier in the season. He excelled in the first half of the season, posting a 3.00 ERA, 3.85 FIP and a 1.11 WHIP in 117 innings pitched. On the flip side, through the second half of the season, he posted a 4.64 ERA, 3.86 FIP, and a 1.38 WHIP.

Regardless of all the stats discussed, October baseball is a different environment compared to the regular season. Paxton and Berrios are both excellent starters who can consistently pump 5-6 solid innings, which is a necessity in the postseason. Paxton has been the better pitcher in his career, while Berrios has been the better pitcher this season.