The rookie season for Chris Paddack was productive on so many levels for the San Diego Padres.
The final start for Chris Paddack on September 17th was a good one. Through five innings, Paddack stuck out nine Milwaukee Brewers while allowing just a single run to cross the plate.
Outings like this had become the norm for the tall right-hander.
There were times that “The Sherrif” looked outright dominant, such as the start of the year when he set the baseball world on fire with a 1.91 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 33 innings. There was also the final four starts of his season where, after enduring the roughest stretch of his season, Paddack allowed only two runs in 23.1 innings while striking out 32 batters. He went up against a Cy Young winner in Jacob DeGrom and outdueled him through seven innings while nearly throwing a no-hitter against the Miami Marlins in July, the same team that traded him.
Paddack showed the resiliency and resolve of a 10-year veteran, and he is only 23-years-old. Even after a midseason demotion to Lake Elsinore to help him catch his breath, Paddack took it in stride to come back even stronger as he rattled off yet another chain of impressive starts.
Paddack finished his rookie season with 140.2 innings pitched, a 3.33 ERA, and a 0.98 WHIP. Fielding metrics were also kind to him, as he posted a 3.96 FIP, 4.05 xFIP, and a SIERRA of 3.84. His strikeout rates were bedazzling as well, evidenced by a 26.9% strikeout rate against a 5.5% walk rate. While the walks are slightly concerning, keep in mind that those 140.2 innings pitched are nearly 50 more than the 90 innings he pitched last year, so some fatigue/lack of command was to be expected.
Chris Paddack's 11Ks from Last Night (in under 20 seconds). ? pic.twitter.com/1Kb4cZCuHn
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 7, 2019
If that isn’t impressive enough, then consider this. Since 1986, the only pitchers to have finished a season with similar innings pitched, ERA, and WHIP are Walker Buehler and the late Jose Fernandez. That is some pretty small, yet elite company that Paddack has joined.
However, if there is any obstacle to Paddack’s path to becoming an ace, it is either his ability to develop his curveball or his rising home run count. The curveball has shown flashes of potential and generated some ugly swings-and-misses, but there were also instances where his curveball served as more of a “get-me-over” pitch. With practice and an entire offseason to fine-tune the pitch, his curveball has the capability of becoming a third weapon in The Sherrif’s arsenal.
This leads to a nagging problem the right-hander faced this season; the long ball. While he certainly wasn’t the only pitcher to surrender a high amount of round-trippers this season, the 23 homers he allowed in 2019 is a frightening jump from the four he allowed in 2018. Such a leap pushed his HR/9 to 1.47 and his HR/FB to 14.6%. Such a jump can be credited to Paddack facing Major League hitters for the first time in his career as well as missing locations on his curveball and changeup. With seasoning, the numbers will go down.
At times, Paddack has shown the dominating stuff to be a front-of-the-rotation ace for the foreseeable future. Keep in mind that this isn’t the type of pitcher who will simply rest on his laurels and cruise on auto-pilot. Even with all of the accomplishments on the mound this year, Paddack will head into the offseason with a clear goal in mind; to keep getting better.