White Sox: Was James Shields 2017 Season Better Than It Looked?

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 12: James Shields
CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 12: James Shields /

White Sox veteran had better 2017 season than what his traditional statistics show. How good was his year when analyzed by Magnum Start Value?

This past season, White Sox starter James Shields year was peculiar from a statistical standpoint. He only made twenty-one starts, due to the fact that he missed two months with a lat strain. With stamina being a major part of his game, does it make sense to break down Shields campaign differently than in past analytical articles?

In my opinion yes, and in order to do so I will have to use Magnum Start Value (MSV) combined with traditional statistics. To begin, Shields only made three starts prior to June 18 and he allowed one earned run in each. However, he recorded a quality start just once, meaning Shields failed to go six innings or more in two other outings.

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While his April was short and solid, Shields had a bumpy ride from June until July 31. Keep in mind we are talking about a pitcher who is known for going deep into ballgames, and dominating the opposition as well.

However, that did not happen much in the aforementioned time span. Shields only posted one quality start while failing to reach the fifth inning four times. Anyone who remembers his time with the Tampa Bay Rays can recall long outings and high strikeout totals, not early exits from ballgames.

Moving on to August, Shields picked up his game a bit. While he wasn’t the same pitcher he once was, 60 percent of his trips to the mound qualified for a quality start, combined with the fact he lowered his ERA from 6.03 to 5.72 in five outings. Not once did Shields allow more than four earned runs, along with the fact he only gave up three or less earned runs in four out of five outings.

Now, while Shields had mixed results in September of 2016, he finished this past season on a much stronger note. To begin with, he posted two Magnum Starts, each of which were in the MMP category in regards to MO-Dot. Shields also went 3-2 this past September , which improved his record from 2-6 to 5-7 by the end of 2017.

With all of that said, let’s take a couple of things into account. First, is his injury and second, would be father time. Combine those two things and you have a long recovery process when factoring in the lat strain from the first half of the season. How did that impact things?

To start off, six of his seven quality starts were either in April or past the non-waiver trade deadline. Shields also posted his four shortest outings in June and July, with all of them at 4.2 innings or shorter. Something else to look at would be Shields’ record, which was an even .500 (4-4), while he went 1-3 in his other eight starts.

Now, the major question becomes can Shields produce the way he did in the timespan when he pitched .500 baseball this past season? For a pitcher who had a Yearly Magnum Percentage (YMP) of 9.5 percent in 2017, it is quite possible the pitcher we once knew will never return. But can the hurler that pitched for part of ’17 still exist?

If so, the Sox could have a trade-able commodity come July, however that is unlikely at the moment. Shields will be 36 come the start of 2018, meaning he will be at the very end of his career hoping for one last shot in the majors. If Shields wants to pitch past ’18 he will need to be around a .500 pitcher next year which is possible but doubtful.

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Overall, my guess is the Sox are hoping for the exact scenario to play out that is mentioned above. Shields will be gone after 2018, as he will be an unrestricted free with what many believe will be limited options (Padres must pay $2M buyout post ‘18). If he struggles to keep his head above water, it is possible  the Sox organization eats Shields’ contract or he retires. Regardless, he has been a disappointment on the South Side, Sox fans.