Archive for the ‘James Shields’ Category

MLB: Kansas City Royals-Workout

One of the most derided concepts in recent “fanalysts” thinking has to be leadership. It is nigh impossible to count, so rather than throw the baby out with the bathwater, it’s ignored by value calculations. That leadership tends to be seen as a moving target — only as valuable as your win/loss record — makes matters worse.

James Shields was one of the few remaining Devil Rays when the rebranded Tampa Bay Rays traded him to Kansas City in December 2012. Having survived the 100-loss AL East furnace, Shields went on to see the brighter days of AL pennants and perennial playoff contention. Brought to Kansas City to drag a young team to the next stage of their rebuild process, the right-hander did his very best.

Not only did he throw his requisite 200+ innings, but he helped mentor a young staff with lessons that have the potential to pay dividends beyond 2013.

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Houston Astros v Kansas City Royals

Okay, that just isn’t fair. There is only ONE Cliff Lee, and for that the world is much better (and yet worse.) But just like Cliff Lee last season, James Shields is in the middle of a terrific season that just might go for naught.

James Shields ranks among the league leaders in many pitching categories in 2013, ranking first in in the AL for innings pitched and sitting among the top 20 in baseball for ERA, FIP, and xFIP among others. He has two complete games and has given the Royals exactly what they wanted when they swapped him for their top prospect, Wil Myers.

Unfortunately for the Royals and Shields, the Kansas City offense won’t play along. Which puts James Shields on a crash course with history!

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Boston Red Sox v Tampa Bay Rays

Most teams fresh off trading an innings-eating sub ace like James Shields would have problems filling out their rotation the following year. Replacing the innings and overall goodness of a pitcher like Shields isn’t easy. It’s hard, in fact! That why teams give up their number one prospect to get Shields – guys like him are hard to find.

The Rays are not most teams. The Rays have pitchers – lots of pitchers – ready and willing to fill out their rotation. Can they replace Shields right away with available talent? Apparently the Rays can fill out their rotation without using any of their heralded young starters.

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Oakland Athletics v Detroit Tigers

Some of the most-used baseball truisms are a variant of “pitching to the corners.” Scouts even differentiate between command and control when they say that some pitchers can put the ball in the strike zone and some can put the ball exactly where they want.

But much of baseball analysis is on/off when it comes to the strike zone. Was it as strike or wasn’t it? Was it walk or wasn’t it? It stands to reason that there might be pitchers falling between the cracks of our pitching metrics that are still adding to their value by showing great command. And, further, it stands to reason that those pitchers might show better numbers in the future — if they keep ‘pounding the zone’ in the right places, it’s sure to show up in his ERA and WHIP eventually, right?

Thanks to Jeff Zimmerman and Bill Petti at FanGraphs, we have the beginnings of an inkling about these pitchers now. The two developed a metric called ‘Edge%’ which tracks how well a pitcher can throw to the edges of the strike zone. It’s a simple concept, and executed well: who hits a defined sliver of the strike zone best? And what does that mean?

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After a week of percolating, it appears that the Tampa Bay Rays and Kansas City Royals are close to a trade involving James Shields and Wil Myers, among others. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times broke the early workings of the trade on Twitter, which was also confirmed by several insiders including Ken Rosenthal.

The Royals made the deal official via their Twitter account, and oh boy… it’s a big one:

 

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You know how Mike Trout gave basically every baseball fan in America a show this summer? A nonstop thrill ride of skills and excitement, literally hours of fun and entertainment when he put his big box hardware store full of tools on display on a nightly basis? You’d think he earned himself some good will. You’d be wrong.

You see, Mike Trout has effectively ruined baseball. Not only does his every act in the future now invite comparison to his magical 2012 season, Mike Trout’s unparalleled excellence tipped the scales on prospect watching among fans and all non-industry types.

For now, every single team not only thinks their prospects are going to be All Stars and Buster Posey‘s — winning World Series titles falling out of bed and wooing entire regions with their winning smiles — the top prospect in the farm system of each and every Major League franchise is now the Next Mike Trout. They, too, will produce more WAR in a single season than most players muster across their pedestrian careers.

When “word” hit that the Kansas City Royals were mulling a trade for Tampa Bay Rays pitcher James Shields, rather than jumping out of their skins with joy, many Royals fans were distraught. The player reported to be heading out of Kansas City in any James Shields trade hasn’t actually played a single game for the Royals – it would be their top prospect Wil Myers. The same Wil Myers mentioned in R.A. Dickey trade talks earlier this month.

Giving up Myers is a huge price to pay but the revulsion expressed by many Royals fans highlights an undeniable truth: coveting prospects and years of control has gone too far.

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One frequently repeated factoid pertains to the Tampa Bay Rays’ fountain of pitching youth. The Rays, you may have heard, haven’t used a 30-year old starting pitcher since Jae Seo took the mound for the then Devil Rays in 2007.

Not only is this testament to their ability to keep young starters healthy and on the hill, it also speaks to their quest for cheap & controllable talent. Until now.

Today is Rays ace James Shields’s 30th birthday. It is the end of an era, one way or another.

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