WHIFF PROFILE: JAMES SHIELDS
Shields might be the best thing WHIFF has ever discovered.
After the 2006 season, on the surface, James Shields appeared to be another floundering youngster in a long line of floundering youngsters in the history of Devil Ray pitching. Sporting a 6-8 record with a 4.84 ERA and 1.44 WHIP, there wasn't much to get excited about concerning his scoreboard stats.
Then again, he was a rookie. And getting through nearly 125 innings without being a complete catastrophe in the AL East isn't easy. Maybe there was something here after all. Or maybe not. Who knows?
There was one major indicator that Shields was on the verge of a breakout, and that was the WHIFF results of his changeup. Shields, who threw this pitch with an extremely high frequency (surpassed only by Tom Glavine amongs SP's in '06), was getting a .381 WHIFF Rate on his change, cracking the top 12 in all of baseball. Many around baseball believe there is no better pitch to own than a devastating changeup, and Shields had it, threw it a ton, and hitters still couldn't touch it even while knowing it was coming in the great majority of two-strike situations.
This season, Shields has done more than just "start where he left off in 2006". He's cut his walk rate in half, lowered his ERA a point, and is chewing up innings like some kind of ravenous wildabeast (that eats innings for food). Through tonight's outing, Shields is going more than 7 innings per start (7.13)--and that's the best in baseball.
His change is now one of the top 10 in the game-- he's posting a .391 WHIFF this season. His fastball is hittable still, but his curve and cutter (although the latter is turning into a slider more everyday) have become solid swing-and-miss pitches as well.
James Shields - WHIFF Breakdown
Fastball - .087 (MLB AVG - .133)
Curveball - .312 (MLB AVG - .274)
Change - .391 (MLB AVG - .250)
Cutter - .230 (MLB AVG - .180)