There’s no official consensus on just what it is that James Pazos throws as his top pitch. Some refer to it as a four-seam fastball, while others call it a sinker. The bottom line is that it’s hard and he throws it a lot. At the start of last season, Pazos unleashed the pitch – we’ll just call it a fastball – about 86% of the time, leaving his slider to be used in the other 14% of all pitches that he threw. By the end of the season, Pazos had stretches where he threw the pitch as often as 95% of the time.
As the 2018 season progressed, Pazos seemed to have developed a variation of his fastball, which has the movement of a two-seamer. The pitch has slightly less velocity than the “normal” fastball that Pazos throws, but definitely shows more movement, making it a nice variation from his normal offering. About 10% of his fastballs appear to be the two-seamer that he has picked up.
There was a marked difference in Pazos from 2017 to 2018. In 2017, he was relying more on the slider and didn’t have varying fastballs to keep hitters guessing. The end results are a little surprising. Even though he’s throwing a pitch with more movement, Pazos actually saw his walks-per-nine fall from 4.0 in 2017 to 2.7 in 2018. His strikeouts-per-nine also fell from 10.9 to 8.1, but the ratio of strikeouts to walks actually rose slightly from 2.71 to 3.00 in 2018. When you add all of that together, hitters are making more contact against Pazos, but by limiting his walks and home runs – he allowed just 0.7 home runs-per-nine innings last season – Pazos has been able to make it all work.
In 2018, Pazos became a more confident pitcher, especially when he got two strikes on a batter. In the past, he would look to get them to swing at something just out of the strike zone, but always down. In 2018, Pazos was primarily going right for the lower inside (or outside vs lefties) corner. The ball was either put in play as a usually weak groundball or spit on for a called third strike.
Whatever Pazos did between 2017 and 2018 can’t be considered anything near an overhaul. Instead, it’s more just adjustments to what pitches he’s throwing and how often – more fastballs, less sliders – and a gain in confidence that has allowed him to get away from looking to trick batters with an inferior pitch (the slider) and instead, going right after them with the fastball. Generally, Pazos throws his fastball in the mid-90s, with some exceptions on both sides, in that he can pump it up to as much as 98 on occasion and then take something off of it and throw a 92-mile per hour fastball. The slider generally sits around 80-miles per hour.
The Phillies can count on Pazos pitching with little rest between outings. In 33 of his 60 outings last season, Pazos pitched either on back-to-back days or with one day off in between. His opponent’s batting average against on the second day of back-to-back outings was .250 with an ERA of 1.04 in those situations. When given a day of rest, Pazos held opponents to a .230 average and notched a 1.59 ERA. In fact, his ERA when having no more than one day between outings was a combined 1.40, while with two or more days between outings, he posted a 4.44 ERA with the Mariners in 2018.
Last season, Pazos stranded 71% of the 31 runners he inherited when coming in during an inning.
Pazos has also proven himself worthy defensively, having fielded 17 balls without committing an error. As a hitter, he’s 0-for-8 in the majors.