We all know what you think of James Pazos. The first thing that popped into your mind is: my what a wonderful mustache that is.
If this picture doesn’t make James Pazos your new favorite Phillie, I can’t help you. pic.twitter.com/3W1G75UIpq— Chip’von Reiderson (@ChipReiderson) December 3, 2018
While this is true (and something to watch for during the season), perhaps you have missed the small part where you realize that Pazos is actually a pretty good pitcher as well. Perhaps his mustache gives him strength (this is likely), but over the past two seasons, he has gone from left handed wild card to solid bullpen piece. Last year, though, he lost a little giddy-up on his heat, causing an issue with his results. How did this happen?
First, let’s familiarize yourself with Pazos’ numbers over the past two years:
James Pazos 2017-18
Hmm, seems a little bit inconsistent. The drop in strikeout rate is a bit disconcerting and his ERA looks a lot better than it should have, but he did see a drop in walks and his home run per flyball rate went down as well. Hitters were swinging at more pitches in the zone (a 10% increase over 2017), but they weren’t missing much when they did swing. Still, the numbers are good enough that he wouldn’t be considered as throw in in a trade like this. With how much relievers are being valued these days, you’d think he alone could fetch something of value for the team, especially with lots of team control and a minor league option still available. You’d think that Seattle might even want to hang on to him a bit more. It makes you think that perhaps there was something they didn’t like in his approach to pitching and it turns out, that is true.
Pazos decreased velocity due to what the Mariners labeled as mechanical issues was a concern. Also his struggles to find any confidence with his breaking ball were also an issue.— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) December 3, 2018
Many scouts were concerned it was a health issue. Pazos says it wasn't. https://t.co/SmcIgrTQID
Pazos himself is saying he’s fine, but outside eyes aren’t sure. Any way you want to slice it, something wasn’t right as the season went on. Take a look at his velocity numbers last year.
In 2017, there was more of a gradual, season long drop in velocity, nothing that concerning. Last year, though, you see his velocity drop by about two miles per hour and stay there the rest of the season. For a guy who relies on the fastball as much as he does (and he does A LOT), this can be a red flag that Pazos might be fibbing a bit about his health. Dig a little deeper and there might be an answer.
From the above chart, you can notice Pazos has two significant drops in velocity: between August and September of 2017, and again between June and July of 2018. Compare that with this chart:
It’s around both of these times that we see Pazos coming more over the top in his delivery than when he was throwing harder. The reason for that is known only to him, but the similarities in time periods as well as the concurrent drops in velocity seem to have a small correlation. The same thing seems to be happening with his horizontal release points as well.
I’m not sure there is anything behind it, but it does seem that a mechanical adjustment, for whatever reason, is behind his drops in velocity. He might be compensating for an injury he does not want to disclose, lending credence to what scouts are saying about him. Then again, he might not be. Maybe his mechanics just got so out of whack, he couldn’t get them back to where they were. It makes you wonder why the Phillies would want him to be a part of the return package from Seattle. However, if the Mariners were that low on him, the Phillies might have been studying the video and determined they can fix this mechanical thing and get him back throwing in the mid-high 90’s again.
We all know the Segura trade was all about acquiring a shortstop to help solidify both the offense and the defense. Pazos could be seen as someone that helped facilitate the trade and the Mariners saw him as someone they can get something for before his arm goes kablooey. But if he’s not injured and the Phillies can make a mechanical change that leads to his regaining his lost velocity, they might have found a nice little diamond for their bullpen heading into 2019. If not...
...there’s always the mustache.