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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

SHIELDS DOWN, CAPTAIN! 

As you are aware, and Mike DiGiovanna writes about it today in case you aren't, Scot Shields has struggled a bit in the early going, at least by his very high standards.

Scottie's numbers are down almost universally across the board; though he is striking out batters more frequently than in the past, he's issuing more walks and allowing home runs at a far more rapid rate; he's already allowed half as many taters as he did all of last season, despite not pitching a quarter of as many innings.

Is there cause to worry?

Let's see, right now he's pitches just over 20 innings. Let's see if he's had any other stretches like this.

Hmm, here's one. It's not a comforting one, though: it comes from near the end of last season. From August 2 through September 5, Shields pitched in 17 games, throwing 20 innings, striking out 23 and walking 8. He allowed 4 home runs in that span.

What did he do after that? His next ten games saw him pitch 11-and-a-third innings with a 0.79 ERA. So there's an example of a bounce-back from a bad stretch, though obviously not too long-lasting.

How about slumps earlier in the year? Here's a bad stretch in 2005; not quite as bad, but not too hot, either: a 4.84 ERA over 22 1/3, but a good strikeout-to-walk ratio, and only two home runs. Shields bounced back well from that, too.

Looking at his pitch data briefly, on his BB-Ref page ... he's throwing strikes just as much as he always was, but he is only throwing first-pitch strikes to 55% of batters, where the last three years he's been at 59% and his career mark is 60%. That doesn't seem to be a real factor; in opposing plate appearances that pass through a 1-0 count, Shields has only allowed a 111/314/222 AVG/OBP/SLG line.

I think this shall pass. I could be wrong; I guess I've been doing a lot of rosy color lately. It's possible that Shields workload in previous seasons has taken its toll. He is 31, so maybe it's just his decline. But I have to think that he'll start walking less guys, especially given that he's throwing as many strikes as usual, and giving up less home runs. 21.8% of the flyballs he's allowed this year have gone over the fence. He should be closer to 10%, and that high number is unlikely to continue.

Hopefully I'm right, and these blown wins and blown saves will be nothing but a distant memory come September.

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Comments:
I checked Shields' numbers a while back, and I seem to recall that he had an absolutely horrid stretch in April 2004. His final numbers in 2004 were quite good, though.
 
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