Who the Hell is Josh James?

The Boston Red Sox got on Houston Astros starter Charlie Morton immediately last night, putting up a 2-spot in the first inning and adding a third run in the 3rd inning, forcing Morton from the game. He would throw just 2.1 innings (over the span of about 3 hours), allowing 3 earned runs on 3 hits and 2 walks. It’s crucial to get to the bullpen early in a best-of-7 series, so this was huge for the Red Sox.

But then the Astros, as if they had just drawn the fifth and final Exodia card, summoned an absolute freak from the bullpen. Some guy named Josh James. If you’re like me, you didn’t care about James until he threw his first pitch, at which point you probably said something like “who the fuck is this guy?”

Apparently, he was genetically engineered in the same laboratory as Aaron Judge and Jordan Hicks, because he has one of the filthiest pitch arsenals I’ve ever seen. He sat 99-101 with a 92 mph changeup, 88 mph slider and an 85 mph curveball. I had to bend over and pick my jaw up off the floor. I was absolutely stunned.

Oh, and he didn’t just throw one inning. Yeah, he pumped 102 on the black for 3.2 innings. His velocity only dropped a mph or two, and he didn’t make many mistakes. He gave up a few runs (shout out JBJ), but that’s baseball. Otherwise, it was an extremely impressive performance.

The most impressive part, though, was his control. James was dotting up fastballs and locating his changeup right below the strike zone. It started middle-middle and dropped off the table. The Red Sox have one of the best collective 2-strike approaches in the MLB, but they hardly stood a chance against this guy. I don’t care who you are, when someone throws these pitches, all you can do is swing, miss, and tip your cap.

But again, who the fuck is this guy?

Surprisingly, James was a September call-up. The 25-year-old right-hander was drafted in the 34th round in 2014 and spent the past 3 seasons in the minor leagues honing his craft. Originally, James only threw 89-93, so he needed to learn the art of pitching as opposed to throwing. He didn’t draw much buzz while in A or AA ball, but he kept building his repertoire.

Then, James made a change that would drastically improve his life on and off the field. He had suffered from sleep apnea, a disease which causes a person’s breath to stop while he’s sleeping. This plagued James for a long time and inhibited his physical and mental growth.

As soon as he solved his sleeping issues, he saw improvement on the mound. His fastball jumped up to 94-96, touching high 90s. A few mechanical adjustments, and voilá, Josh James was reborn. He was brought up to AAA and never looked back. Before being called up to the big club in September, James threw 114.1 innings in 23 appearances in minor league ball. He posted a 3.23 ERA, allowing 41 ER on 79 hits and 49 walks. He led the Astros farm system in strikeouts by a long shot, with 171. That’s 13.5 K/9, for those of you who are mathematically challenged or just too lazy to do the math. In either case, you’re welcome.

So while I’m not happy the Red Sox have to try and hit off this guy, I’m excited to watch him in the years to come. He’s got the electrifying stuff you only hear about in legends. He’s everything Daniel Bard could have been. This should be fun.


Photo: Sports Spectrum

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