From his debut in 2006 to May 7th, 2016, James Shields was a good pitcher.
He finished third in the Cy Young voting in 2011, eleventh in 2013, finished in the top 20 for the 2014 MVP Award and also started the 2014 AL Wild Card game for the Royals.
In 2015, he signed a four-year, $75 million contract with the San Diego Padres. He was slightly below average in his first season with the Padres. Maybe the struggles can be chalked up to pitching on the West coast and having the pressure of a new contract. Either way, he still had a sub-4 ERA and his highest career K/9 at 9.6
In 2015, Shields pitched to a 95 ERA+. That was his second-lowest ERA+ mark since 2010 when he had a 75 ERA+ with the Rays. However, the following season, in 2011, he was an All-Star. In 2016, James Shields did not bounce back like he did in 2011; he began his demise as a pitcher.
Maybe social distancing in the time of Coronavirus is making everyone crazy, and based on the sample size and Shields’ age, what Bartolo Colon did on May 7th, 2016, in the second inning with Shields on the mound most likely did not change Shields’ career trajectory. However, it is fun to hypothesize and these numbers are maybe only a little revealing.
From 2006 all the way to the pitch before Colon hit a home run in 2016, these were Shields’ numbers in 2,153.1 IP: 3.73 ERA; 1.23 WHIP; 7.8 K/9
Then this happened:
Shields struck out the next batter to end the inning, but his career was never the same. To lead off the top of the third, Shields walked the first two batters he faced. Then his career fell off a cliff.
Here are Shields’ numbers in 462 IP from the Colon home run to his final outing in 2018: 5.32 ERA; 1.46 WHIP; 7.1 K/9
Another interesting thing to note is Shields was having a bounceback year in 2016 before he gave up Colon’s magical homer.
In six starts to begin 2016, Shields had a 3.23 ERA, and a 1.28 WHIP. He was also only allowing 0.9 HR/9 (4 homers in 39 innings), which is an improvement from his league-leading 33 home runs allowed in 2015.
In 2016 after allowing the home run to Colon, in 26 starts, Shields had a 6.59 ERA and a 1.68 WHIP.
So in 2016 and from a career-wide standpoint, Colon’s home run may have actually really screwed up Shields’ career.
On June 4, 2016, the Padres traded Shields to the White Sox for Erik Johnson and……*gulp*….Fernando Tatis Jr. That really hurts to see. Colon’s home run may have helped orchestrate one of the most lopsided trades in history.
If Colon did not hit that home run, maybe Shields would continue to have a bounceback 2016 season and he would never have been traded. Then, Tatis would be playing with all the other fun, promising talent in the South Side of Chicago.
And of course, it all comes back to Big Sexy. What can’t that guy do?
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