Why is a great James Shields year so ridiculous?
If you’ve been following along, you know that I have fallen madly in love with the 2018 James Shields season. It is a love affair like no other and I will not apologize for it. Even if he has a terrible year, I won’t be upset about how much hope and time I have put into this. But seriously, why is it so ridiculous for Shields to have a great year?
Yes, I Know
Of course I realize that his past few years have been rough. Giving up 67 HRs in your last 54 games is not good. Having your ERA explode up into the 5s is not good. And losing velocity on your fastball is probably the worst of all of these. On top of that, his 2017 season was limited by injuries and he pitched the least amount of innings in his career. But in the immortal words of Vincent Gambini
The Defense Defense
One thing that helped Shields greatly when he was in Tampa and KC was having good defenses behind him. Last year, he surely did not have this. But this year, if you have Yolmer Sanchez at 3b and Tim Anderson bounces back, the infield starts to look pretty good defensively. There is also a chance you’ll see an outfield of Avisail Garcia, Adam Engel, and Charlie Tilson. That won’t be everyday, but that is also pretty solid. Add into it, an actual major league catcher in Wellington Castillo and maybe we have a real defense to back him up. Is this so ridiculous to think?
Coop Can Fix Him
Every year, people ask who we’re gonna get that Coop is gonna fix. As if it’s been a non-stop train of Matt Thornton and Anthony Swarzak for the past 15 years. We like to forget about Mike MacDougal and David Aardsma and a million other hard throwing pitchers that he could not fix. But let’s keep the narrative going that Coop and now Dave Duncan are these Pitcher Whisperers. Why is it ridiculous to think they can help Shields get back on track? Let’s get that new arm slot working!
The Prediction Itself
Now I know we joke about the James Shields Cy Young thing, but how about this: If I say James Shields will have a sub 4 ERA, pitch 200 innings, and have 160 Ks, I would be laughed out of the building. And based solely off of his last two years, I understand why you’d laugh. But James Shields has actually done that 7 times in his career and as recently as 2015. It shouldn’t be ridiculous to think he could again. And to put this in perspective of bold claims, think about what you believe to be reasonable for our prospects to do. If I told you that Eloy Jimenez would come up this year and hit 15 dingers, you’d high five me and agree. But why? He’s played a total of 18 games above A ball. So why is that reasonable, but Shields having a great year is insane? Shields has gotten MVP and Cy Young votes in the past 5 years. Why is it ridiculous to think that Shields might have something left in that right arm?
I know it’s not a popular opinion, but maybe it’s not crazy. Maybe there is reason to think he can bounce back. Maybe the Sox will have to think about his 2019 option.