A Look at James Shields (And Some Good Reads)By
Due to technical problems, this article wasn’t published under the author’s name who wrote it, Carlo Salcedo. However, every word written in this article is his. -Dave Gershman
Buster Olney recently reported that the Marlins could make a run at James Shields.
“Heard this: Among the possibilities the Marlins are considering is a serious run at James Shields — and they have some natural matchup on a trade, because they could dangle Logan Morrison as part of any package for the right hander.”
“Big Game” or “Complete Game” James (depending on what you prefer) posted a career year in 2011 with a 2.82 ERA in 249-plus innings pitched, including a MLB-high 11 complete games, four of which were shutouts. He also posted career-highs in K/9, BABIP, strand rate, FIP, xFIP, SIERA, and WAR. Needless to say, Shields pitched like an ace in 2011. He’s got significant trade value this offseason, which the Rays are likely to exploit, as they did with Matt Garza last offseason.
Garza had more trade value than Shields last offseason mainly because of a 1.27 difference in their 2010 ERAs, despite Shields posting a better FIP, xFIP, SIERA, and WAR. Garza is almost two years younger than Shields, though the gap between their respective values was a function of perception and ERA more than anything else.
It’s easy to forget the concern surrounding Shields after his struggles in 2010, when he accumulated a 5.18 ERA over 203-plus innings. However, given his bad luck in BABIP and the 4.24 FIP/3.55 xFIP/3.57 SIERA that suggested he pitched much better than his 5.18 ERA, the Rays astutely trusted that Shields’ numbers would regress in 2011, and it paid off.
In fact, the main differences between 2010 and 2011 for Shields were an 83-point swing in BABIP (.341 in 2010 and .258 in 2011), a significantly better strand rate (68.4 percent compared to 79.6 percent), and an improved ground ball rate (41.3 percent versus 46.2 percent). His trade value has been restored and the Rays will likely trade him given that he is becoming more expensive. He has club options for $7 million in 2012, $9 million in ‘13, and $12 million in ’14.
One reason why Shields’ numbers improved in 2011 compared to 2010: according to Fangraphs, he threw his fastball 46.1 percent of the time in 2010 compared to 36.4 percent of the time in 2011; he threw his curveball 13.5 percent of the time in 2010 compared to 21 percent of the time in 2011. Admittedly, these numbers aren’t the most reliable, but the differences are significant.
Going forward, Shields has a career .299 BABIP, 72.7 percent strand rate, and 43.8 percent ground ball rate, so his overall numbers may become somewhat worse compared to 2011. Though, a switch to the NL would definitely benefit him.
A Few Good Reads
Jeff Passan on why baseball shouldn’t care about TV ratings:
“Look, baseball’s inferiority complex vis-à-vis the NFL remains among its weirdest – and weakest – foci.”
“MLB’s embrace of new media a decade ago leaves it as far and away the industry leader in the sorts of technologies needed to sell its game. Content is king. Baseball produces the most content.”
MLBTR’s Matt Swartz on the statistics that matter in determining pitchers’ arbitration salaries:
“The statistics that matter to [arbitration] panels remain IP, W, and ERA for starting pitchers, and IP, ERA, saves and holds for relief pitchers.”
“Playing time is crucial for pitchers’ arbitration salaries, just as it was for hitters. Accumulating innings gets you a big raise, even with a mediocre season.”
“Our model predicts that for each four wins a pitcher gets, he will receive about a 10% larger raise, even with all of his other statistics unchanged.”
“Relievers get paid by role. An elite closer with a history of saves gets paid far more than a set-up man, who gets paid far more than a middle reliever, even with similar performances. Andrew Bailey is slotted for $3.5MM this winter, but turn his 24 saves into 24 holds and he’d only get $2.1MM with the same elite ERA of 2.07, even with his 51 career saves prior to 2011 still on his record. Take all those saves and holds away, and he’d get under $1.0M with 174 career IP of a 2.07 ERA. Tyler Clippard had 38 holds this year for the Nationals, which boosts him up to a $1.7MM salary estimate. Take away 33 of those 38 holds to make him a middle reliever, and he only projects to get $1.3MM.”
Here, Swartz looks at the statistics that matter for hitters.
Finally, Mike Fast’s study on hitters’ hot and cold zones, which was spurned by a discussion with Brandon McCarthy.
“The pitcher-batter confrontation lies at the heart of baseball; learning about it is one of my favorite pursuits.”
Fast notes that Emilio Bonifacio is one of the worst batters, in terms of TAv, on pitches up-and-in.
Photo by Bill Kostroun – AP