White Sox right hander has been major disappointment this season, but can he be fixed for 2017? If team intends on contending, the former All-Star will need to pitch effectively.
Now that the Chicago White Sox seemed stuck with a declining James Shields, the question becomes what can they do to help him? Since he is a former hard-throwing ace, he may have just dominated with overwhelming talent. Now, as he ages, the talent is deteriorating. Here are some ideas to improve Shields performance in 2017 and beyond:
Better fastball location:
This is the best and most important way for a pitcher that doesn’t have the elite fastball velocity he once did. When he throws this pitch in the zone, he is going to have to be perfect with it. Considering the fact Shields doesn’t throw 97 MPH anymore, he won’t be blowing his fastball by anyone. If Shields is going to pitch in the low 90’s more often, he can’t get away with missing his location.
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Effective use of his changeup:
Shields has a good changeup, and is going to have to accompany his fastball with this pitch in an elite way. He might have to work on it some in the offseason, mostly due to the fact he needs it to be 8-12 MPH slower than his fastball. On top of that, he needs to keep it down in the zone. He can not, absolutely not leave this pitch up. That will hurt Shields badly as he progresses in his career as his fastball velocity decreases.
Develop a quality cut fastball:
As Mets starter Bartolo Colon fought the aging process, he did so with movement. If Shields can do the same, he could find similar success. I doubt he will pitch as long as Colon, however he could become successful if he learns a similar pitch. It will be hard for him to ever match Colon’s movement or pitching knowledge, but doing this will help Shields tremendously.
Less breaking pitches:
As his talent deteriorates, his ability to throw a big time breaking ball will do so as well. On top of that, with a slower fastball, his breaking pitches will become easier to hit. Especially if they are not located well or hung. So in other words, Shields will get away with less mistakes with his breaking pitches.
Overall, it is going to be hard for Shields to ever be the pitcher he once was. Nevertheless, he still is an elite competitor, somewhat similar to Jake Peavy but without the injuries. To top that off, he is an elite leader and teammate. It is going to take a while for him to adjust to losing his natural talent, however if he can adjust he can still be a solid MLB pitcher.
Given he might not, he could be the next John Danks for the Sox. But keep this in mind, Shields was once an ace which is something Danks never was. It is impossible to know exactly what the future holds for Shields, but he can make adjustments to father time. The only question remains, will he?