James Shields: A Closer Look
I flirted with the idea of typing this piece in all caps in an effort to divert your attention from sharpening your pitchforks.Â James Shields is the undisputed ACE of the Royals staff, but there seems to be a pretty lively debate on whether or not heâ€™s an actual ace pitcher.Â What we know is that James Shields pitched well in the AL East, arguably the toughest division in MLB.Â That being said, I thought Iâ€™d examine his success in his new divisionâ€”the AL Central.
Here is a breakdown of his career success against teams in the AL Central (W/L, ERA, WHIP):
Vs. Cleveland Indians: 1-5, 3.99, 1.28
Vs. Chicago White Sox:Â 11-11, 4.76, 1.39
Vs. Detroit Tigers:Â 5-1, 3.66, 1.27
Vs. Minnesota Twins: 11-11, 4.08, 1.43
That averages out to a 4.12 ERA and 1.34 WHIP.Â Not horrible, by any means, but is that worth trading a potential superstar?Â Are those the numbers of an â€œaceâ€ pitcher?
James Shields is historically a better pitcher at home than on the road.Â In his home stadium (if you can call it that), Tropicana Field, Shields boasts a record of 48-31 and a 3.33 ERA.Â On the road, however, his record is 39-42 with a 4.54 ERA.Â When digging through his stats, the one positive I found was that heâ€™s had pretty good success on the road versus the Royals division rivals.
@ Progressive Field (Cleveland) 1-2, 3.33 ERAâ€”4 starts.
@ U.S. Cellular (Chicago) 1-0, 4.09 ERAâ€”5 starts.
@ Comerica Park (Detroit) 3-0, 2.74 ERAâ€”4 starts.
@ Target Field/Metrodome (Minnesota) 1-2, 4.99 ERAâ€”6 starts
That averages out to a 3.79 ERA with a 6-3 record.Â Not bad, right?Â Perhaps still not â€œaceâ€-like numbers, but then thereâ€™s the fact that his career numbers at Kauffman Stadium are 2-1 with a 6.38 ERA (4 starts).Â In fact, Shields has worse numbers at The K than he does anywhere else in the American League.Â That is concerning, but these numbers are representative of a small sample size of statistics.
Perhaps we should be looking at what Shields has done against some of the best sluggers of the AL Central.Â It is no secret that great hitters get their numbers by holding their own against stud pitchers and absolutely feasting on lesser pitching.Â Well, here is what I found:
Chicago White Sox:
Paul Konerko- (30 PA) .160/.300/.460
Alex Rios- (44 PA) .286/.318/.747
Alexi Ramirez- (26 PA) .391/.462./1.157
Adam Dunn- (13 PA) .100/.308/.408
Shin-Soo Choo- (19 PA) .375/.375/.813
Carlos Santana- (13 PA) .167/.154/.321
Asdrubal Cabrera (15 PA) .308/.400/1.092
Miguel Cabrera- (28 PA) .500/.536/.1.343
Prince Fielder- (7 PA) .167/.286/.452
Victor Martinez- (19 PA) .368/.368/.789
Torii Hunter- (32 PA) .313/.313/.719
Austin Jackson- (13 PA) .385/.385/.923
Joe Mauer- (30 PA) .393/.433/.933
Justin Morneau- (32 PA) .345/.375/1.065
Josh Willingham- (22 PA) .316/.409/.935
Some of thoseÂ numbers are prettyÂ alarming.Â Those numbers do not paint James Shields as an ace.Â Those numbers really make me wonder if over-spending for a couple years of Ryan Dempster, Edwin Jackson, or Anibal Sanchez might have been a better idea, as it would have allowed the Royals to keep their alleged budding superstarâ€”Wil Myers.Â If the Royals donâ€™t make the playoffs while Shields is in a Royals uniform, this trade will be viewed as a failure.Â A failure to what extent will be determined by the success of Myers.
Also concerning is the fact thatÂ the Tampa Bay Rays have put a lot of mileage on the arm of James Shields, and my theory is that they did so knowing full well they were going to deal him at this exact time.Â Similar to how many of us will drive a car into the ground before trading it in on a new one.Â Is there enough left for him to be successful in Kansas City?Â My other concern is that this trade cements (literally and a figuratively) Jeff Francoeur in right field.Â He is not a very good outfielder, and he is an even worse hitter.Â Wil Myers represented a potential fix to that problem, and would be an everyday improvement on what the Royals had versus the improvement James Shields will represent every fifth day.
Iâ€™m not all doom and gloom about this trade, however.Â Here is what I like about the trade.Â Dayton Moore finally made the tough trade, and he did so without removing a piece of the big league club.Â I suppose you could argue that trading Zack Greinke was a tough trade, but it is infinitely easier to trade a good starting pitcher than it is to trade for a good starting pitcher.Â Â Moore just made the trade that will potentially define his tenure as the Royals General Manager.Â This will either be the impetus of successful baseball in Kansas City, or this will be another franchise-crippling move, resulting in yet another General Manager fire/hire, which would also lead to yet another managerial fire/hire.Â Moore was forced into a corner (and you could argue that he was forced there by his own doing, through the epic failure of the Royals to develop starting pitchers), and elected to come out swinging rather than cowering and hoping this team could limp to .500 baseball behind a rotation led by Jeremy Guthrie and Ervin Santana.Â The Rays held the leverage in this deal, and Moore came out of it as well as anyone could.Â The price was going to be steep for James Shields, and Moore paid that price in an effort to give Kansas City Royals fans something to cheer about beyond June 1stâ€”and hopefully into September/October.Â Essentially, Dayton Moore just said â€˜Game On!â€™ to the Detroit Tigers.Â It is a truly gutsy move, and one Iâ€™m elated to see the Royals finally commit to.Â Sink or swim, I applaud the gumption it took to pull the trigger on this deal.Â While the statistics I provided above don’t necessarily paint the prettiest picture of James Shields, there is no doubt he’s one of the best in the game, and he comes to Kansas City with a reputation of being a work-horse and bulldog on the mound.Â Royals fans, take this time to be excited about your team.Â With the addition of Shields (and Wade Davis too), the Royals–yes the ROYALS–are very much a threat.Â Further, the Royals are in what has become very unfamiliar territory–relevancy.
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