James Shields certainly did not live up to his moniker “Big Game James” this past World Series against the San Francisco Giants. But people seem to only remember the most recent performances when it comes to athletes in sports, ignoring body of work. Shields led a young Royals rotation to the promise land and he was better than that last image we have of him.
Shields spent seven seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays and has undoubtedly been the franchise’s workhorse, pitching 200 plus innings, 30 or more starts six out of the last seven years he was with the organization. The big 6-foot-3, 215 pound righty led the Rays to the World Series in 2008, and in the process became the first and only Ray’s pitcher to win a World Series game.
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Shields joined the Royals prior to the 2013 regular season in a blockbuster trade that sent him and then starter Wade Davis to Kansas City in exchange for 2012 minor league player of the year outfielder Wil Myers— and boy did that trade paid off for KC. In Shields’ two seasons with the Royals he pitched 455 2/3 innings, with a 3.18 ERA, 376 strikeouts, 112 walks with a win percentage of .614%. He pitched six innings, allowed two earned runs on six hits and struck out six and earned the win in the clinching game as the Royals swept the Angels in the 2014 ALDS. Kansas City went on to sweep the Orioles, and though he didn’t pitch well after the american league division series the Royals wouldn’t have been there with out em. As he led KC to their first World Series in over 29 years.
The California native is heading into his age 33 season and would appear to still have a lot left in the tank as his pitching style relies mostly on deception. Even so, his four seamer and two seamer were still clocked between 91-94 mph, displaying great command, combined with a change-up that sits in the mid 80’s and is devastating when kept down in the zone. Shields also throws a cut-fastball in the upper 80’s that has superb movement.
“Changed the culture in the locker room” –Ned Yost on James Shields
Jamie Shields spent most of his career under the tutelage of new Cubs manager Joe Maddon in Tampa. And like Maddon brings intangibles that can not be measured by sabermetrics; a great clubhouse guy, a lead by example kind of guy, a gamer and a leader who takes the ball every fifth day. If a guy that pitches 200 plus innings, makes 30 plus starts a season, who’s never hurt, and keeps his ERA under four isn’t an ace then I don’t know what is. As baseball aficionados say, you can never have too much pitching. Adding a pitcher of James Shields caliber, behind Jon Lester would send a clear message to the teams in the NL Central, that the Chicago Cubs are coming for the division, not in a year or two, but now.