by Marshall Bauer
James Shields had a horrid 2010 season, which was marred by bad luck. It was Shields’s worst season of his big league career all around by a large margin, minus one category, his K/9, which was the best of his career. We’ll take a look at what to expect in 2011, but first let’s look over his final stats from his ugly 2010.
187 Strikeouts (8.28 K/9)
51 Walks (2.26 BB/9)
Looking at just those stats, you’d think there’s little to no reason to own Shields for 2011, but you have to take a look at his underlying stats. His FIP was at a bit high, but still respectable at 4.24; the more intriguing number is the xFIP of 3.72, which was a career low.
His bad luck showed up quite a bit in the .354 BABIP. Shields has always had a higher than normal BABIP (his career BABIP is .316), even in his good seasons, but 2010 was the highest of his career. His strand rate even further illustrates this luck, sitting at 68.4%, his career worst. He even managed two months below 60%, one of which (June) was at a horrible unlucky 49.2%. His HR/FB was also the highest of his career at 13.8%, which led to a career worst HR/9 of 1.50.
Shields was very hittable in 2010 (BAA of .300, well above his career number of .273). Shields especially struggled when behind in the count, which is understandable, but Shields took it a step beyond in 2010.
The only improvement in the counting stats that Shields produced was in strikeouts. The past two seasons, saw a K rate of less than 7 K/9, but in 2010 that numbers jumped to a career best 8.28.
If his luck evens out, you can expect a return back to his career norms in 2011. In his four full big league seasons, Shields has had between 11 and 14 wins; even in 2010 he managed 13. An ERA in the upper 3 to low 4 range can be projected, as well as a WHIP right around 1.20. The strikeouts are his biggest question mark. If his 2010 mark was an anomaly and his 2008 and 2009 numbers are the real normal, then his K rate could easily drop below 7, but if 2010 represented a breakthrough, then that number could stay above 8 or just drop into the upper 7s like he put up in 2007.
One thing to keep an eye on is a trade involving Shields. The Rays have been rumored to be shopping a starting pitcher in exchange for a big bat to help out the middle of that lineup, especially after they lost Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena. The recent rumor has been that they will move Garza instead, which would likely net them a bigger return, but Shields has been talked about in these moves as well and could very easily be dealt. A move to the NL and especially out of the ever more potent AL East would be a huge benefit to any pitcher.
What are your thoughts on James Shields? Is he a good buy low option or should he be left for someone else? Will it take a move out of Tampa to create a bounce back season, will that move happen?
Make sure to check out some of our 2011 projections: