We use history as our guide in baseball, especially when there is a lot of it, but sometimes it just doesn't matter. James Shields' days as a stud were clearly behind him even if you believed he'd improve a bit on his 2015, but instead he completely collapsed once he was traded back to the American League. His swinging-strike rate fell to a career low 9.2 percent, while his home run rate surged to a career-high 1.98. There is not a single positive factor in his 114-inning sample with the White Sox. Three years of rising ERA and home run rates render the rest of his profile virtually meaningless. About the only positive thing to say about Shields now is that he will cost literally nothing and will start the year in a big league rotation. In most mixed leagues, you should be able to get him on the waiver wire after the draft, unless you play in one of those reverse leagues where the worst stats are better. In that case, he's a tremendous No. 2 option behind your ace, Jered Weaver.
Shields recognizes that he pitched poorly in 22 starts with the White Sox last season, but maintains confidence that be can bounce back in 2017. "That's not the first time I've had a rough season," Shields said. "I've been in the game a long time, and I know how to combat that. I worked real hard in the offseason, worked on some things in the gym, and I'm ready to go." Shields did bounce back from a poor season in 2010 (5.18 ERA) to finish third in the Cy Young voting in 2011 (2.82 ERA, 11 CG, 249 IP), but he was a 29-year-old lad then. Now, the right-hander is seeking to bounce back at 35 for a team whose eyes are looking a couple years down the road. Shields has been a durable starter over his career, averaging 33 starts and 217 innings the last nine seasons, and there's value in taking the ball every fifth day and giving a team 200 innings. He should make for an attractive trade piece for some contending team this season, when the White Sox are ready to hand over the starting rotation to its young hurlers at Triple-A.
Shields (6-19) allowed five runs on four hits and three walks over seven innings in Saturday's loss to the Twins, and struck out seven. Shields' nightmare season has mercifully ended with him currently leading MLB in earned runs (119), home runs allowed (40, most since 2011) and tied for most losses (19) between playing for the Padres and White Sox. Shields didn't even get to extend his streak of nine seasons with at least 200 innings pitched; he fell 26 innings short. If there's one indication that Shields could rebound next year it's that he's had his best season ever after his previously worst the year before. 2010 is his only other year with an ERA over five and WHIP over 1.40, and he completely changed that the next year by turning in his best season ever (2.82 ERA, 1.04 WHIP). However, he was 28 and 29 years old then. Now he's 34, and will have to fight against the headwinds of older age to turn things around next year.
Shields (3-11) gave up seven runs (six earned) on nine hits and three walks while striking out four over just 5.1 innings in Tuesday's loss to the Phillies. Shields wasted a golden opportunity to help out owners, turning in a dud against by far the least threatening offense in baseball. Odubel Herrera in particular was a major thorn in his side, scoring two runs and driving in three more against the veteran. All of the momentum Shields had established with three quality starts in his last four outings is gone heading into Monday's matchup with the Rays.
Shields struck out eight while allowing just one run on three hits and three walks over six innings Thursday against the Indians, but didn't factor into the decision. Shields has been better of late, turning in quality starts in three of his last four outings after going five straight without one. Still, a combination of his own shortcomings and a lack of run support has left the veteran right-hander winless over that stretch. Tuesday's trip to Philadelphia offers an excellent opportunity to end that skid, as the Phillies are among the worst teams in baseball.
Shields allowed three runs on four hits and four walks Saturday against Kansas City while striking out five. He did not factor into the decision. Despite concerns over a lingering back issue, Shields offered up a strong performance against the division rivals and recorded a quality start. He lowered his ERA and WHIP on the season to 6.01 and 1.63, respectively, which lands him in the bottom tier of fantasy starters. Saturday was just the second start since the beginning of August in which he'd given up fewer than four runs.