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 allowed three hits and one walk while striking out six over six scoreless innings Tuesday against the Rangers. Between Shields' two previous Cactus League starts and Tuesday's, we've seen a bunch of different looks from the veteran. Shields, whose two previous appearances were in minor league games, needed just 75 pitches in what was clearly his best start of the spring. With two more spring starts, Shields is on track for the regular season. At some point, we expect the organization to trade the 35-year-old, presumably to a playoff contender that offers more consistent run support than the rebuilding White Sox.
Shields allowed four runs (two earned) on two hits and three walks while striking out two over 2.2 innings in Monday's game against San Diego. Shields was good early, retiring six of the first seven batters, but lost it all in third inning. A blend of walks, hits and his own two-run throwing error ended his day earlier than anticipated.
Shields allowed one run on two hits and struck out two over two innings in Wednesday's game against Arizona, Barry M. Bloom of MLB.com reports. This was Shields' first start of spring training, and the first chance to turn the page on what was a nightmare season in 2016, when the 35-year-old right-hander went 6-19 with a 5.85 ERA and 40 homers allowed. Shields had no explanation for the down year other than to say his delivery was "out of whack." He'll return to the White Sox's rotation in 2017, but there's a very real chance the veteran is traded in order to make room for the arms of the future.
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.