James Shields has been anything but an innings-eater with White Sox this season
Assuming that James Shields continues to struggle, the White Sox bullpen will have soon become fatigued. While none of this has to do with Shields ERA (which is 21.81 w/ Sox), it has to do with the length of his starts. Teams need to keep their bullpens fresh late into the season, and the quickest way to ruin them are early exits by their starting pitchers.
With that said, let’s take a look at the distance of Shields starts since he has joined the White Sox. In his White Sox debut against the Washington Nationals, he lasted just 2 innings, and couldn’t record an out in the third inning. He finished his night with 7 earned runs.
Shields followed that up with another poor performance versus the Detroit Tigers. Although he lasted just 5 innings giving up six earned runs, the White Sox were able to ultimately come back from a 7-0 deficit.
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Shields looked awful again in his start on Saturday on the road against the Cleveland Indians. This would be his shortest outing with the Sox, as he didn’t even make it through the 2nd inning (1.2 IP, 8 ER allowed). If Shields is going to get hammered, he might want to make it into the 4th or 5th inning if he wants to give his pen a chance to survive the season.
While I don’t think the Sox would have won either the Nationals or Indians game (barring an ace-like performance), they definitely could have saved some arms in the Tigers affair. Had Shields had a line of 7 IP and 3 ER vs Detroit, it is likely that they could have just used two pitchers. Instead, he got shelled and the game went 12 innings and they needed to use six men out of the bullpen. Even though the Sox won that night, it might have a negative long-term impact.
A total of six relievers pitched against the Nationals, and four against the Indians. I understand four pitchers will come out of the pen on occasion, but this can’t become the norm whenever Shields starts.
Overall, no team can survive a starting pitcher that is struggling as badly as Shields is right now. If the Sox are going to turn this around, Shields is going to have to be a part of it. While he may pitch once every fifth day, he was acquired to help save, not destroy the bullpen.
Could he do something in between? That is possible, but he is going to have to right the ship soon. If he continues to be worse than John Danks, the White Sox are going to see a tired bullpen by August. Assuming Shields puts the White Sox in that position, get ready for another season without a playoff berth for this team.