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  1. you probably mean 2/10 or 20% in “That is: 6.2 means 6 and 2%, not 6 and 2/3 innings.”

    Comment by bocephus — August 31, 2011 @ 4:26 pm

  2. Right oh! Thanks for the heads up.

    Comment by Bradley Woodrum — August 31, 2011 @ 4:36 pm

  3. This was highly entertaining, especially the punch at Corky Romano. I’m curious, where did you make those graphs. They’re great looking.

    Comment by Nick — August 31, 2011 @ 4:38 pm

  4. Thanks, Nick! Just Excel, actually.

    Comment by Bradley Woodrum — August 31, 2011 @ 4:47 pm

  5. I am a proponent of 8-bit and 16-bit characters in stat graphics.

    Comment by Costa — August 31, 2011 @ 4:50 pm

  6. This must be one of those “it sounded funnier in my head” pieces. Not sure why this needed the “comedy” prop, as James Shields’ 2011 has plenty of narrative for this site to pick apart.

    I recall reading JS worked with Jim Hickey on simplifying his delivery last offseason. Perhaps that’s vastly improved his command of all pitches (as your graph shows). Maybe that also lends credence to anecdotal accounts where he was leaving meat over the plate in 2010. It’s feasible that he didn’t have as much confidence in pitches he knew the situation dictated he throw, and if AJ Burnett is a decent testimonial, no confidence = terrible results.

    I’ve paid attention to a handful of his starts in 2011, and he seems to have confidence with any pitch in any count this season. I’ve watched him get out of jams behind in the count using front door cutters on RHBs – a very difficult pitch to execute for strikes given the situation and the fact it’s very hittable if held too long on release point.

    I wonder what carry over (if any) will occur in 2012… players who refine their mechanics always seems to be an incalculable variance in expected performance. We may be seeing the new norm in JS, rather than using the canned “regression back to the mean” statement.

    Comment by SwisherSweet — August 31, 2011 @ 4:52 pm

  7. Bautista’s struggles actually started when he shaved off his 9 o’clock shadow. Pitchers now confuse him with the younger, less-intimidating pre-Joey Bats player and are more aggressive in their approach.

    Comment by Mike B. — August 31, 2011 @ 5:05 pm

  8. I watched probably all but one or two of his starts since… Maybe 2008? Wow. That makes me a special kind of nerd. I think.

    Well, anyway, in the 2010 season, it seemed like every single time Shields missed his location, the opposing hitters made it hurt — bad. Pitcher, even the most elite, miss locations all the time — sometimes their stuff overcomes the mistake, but oftentimes the hitters can’t take full advantage. In 2010, it seemed like the hitters ALWAYS took advantage.

    Granted, that’s just my anecdotal observation. Maybe his Pitch F/x data shows his pitches weren’t moving as much (I didn’t notice it earlier, but who knows?). Still, I feel like the narrative has tried to merely cover up the statistics.

    Especially given how Maddon continued to have faith in Shields, I would not be surprised if the mechanics adjustment was more of a placebo to try to get Shields confident again. Only Maddon and Hickey know, though.

    The “comedy” “prop” is one affixed to my penchant for writing. Sorry if you found it distracting, but it makes it more fun for at least me. :)

    Comment by Bradley Woodrum — August 31, 2011 @ 5:29 pm

  9. Well put together!

    Comment by JTC — August 31, 2011 @ 5:39 pm

  10. Very well done. Visuals are always helpful, and any Mario reference will get an instant ‘like” out of me.

    Comment by WiersNRAF — August 31, 2011 @ 5:48 pm

  11. Mario graphics are awesome, but “Shieldsy” must be stopped. People don’t actually call him that, right?

    While I’m thinking of it, why can’t a guy with a cool last name like “Shields” get a better nickname. The Missile Shields. The Agent of Shields. Blue Cross Blue Shields. I’m just spitballin here…

    Comment by mkd — August 31, 2011 @ 6:38 pm

  12. “nearly 14% of each fly ball” went for a home run last year? The hitters must have been doing more damage than merely tearing the cover off the ball.

    Comment by gabriel — August 31, 2011 @ 6:49 pm

  13. That is indeed his Joe Maddon-certified nickname.

    Comment by Bradley Woodrum — August 31, 2011 @ 7:28 pm

  14. Zing!

    Comment by Gabriel — August 31, 2011 @ 8:03 pm

  15. Nice debut (you’re new, right?). “Ought”, not “aught” :).

    Comment by Sean — August 31, 2011 @ 8:36 pm

  16. Thanks! I’ve been around since February, in fact, but I’ve only written 25 Fangraphs pieces thus far — which is not much in the grander scheme.

    Comment by Bradley Woodrum — August 31, 2011 @ 9:47 pm

  17. Speaking of Pitch F/X – I remember when there were F/X – centric posts on FG all the time. What happened?

    Comment by Nick44 — August 31, 2011 @ 10:41 pm

  18. I’ve been a big James Shields fan since he came up and took his licks in ’06 and have watched many of his starts since I moved to Orlando and adopted the Rays as a second team. I thought after the ’08 season that he was going to make the jump into the elite class of master pitchers such as Roy Halladay and Greg Maddux. He fits the mold well with his pitch repetoire and mastery of changing speeds. The only thing I thought was missing was pinpoint command. James always pounds the zone but he has a knack for grooving a belt-high meatball at the wrong time. This especially happened in 2010 and I contribute it to his infatuation with the cutter and John Jaso.

    James was hooked on the cutter after he had so much success with it in ’08. Like a bad crack addict, Shields just couldn’t get enough. it’s by far his worst secondary pitch. I think in 2008 he got away with it because the book on him was his change up. He used the cutter where he usually uses the change to catch batters off guard. He got too cute with it. James loves to throw back door cutters to lefties and front door cutters to righties for a strike three looking or to get back in the count. He used to use his change up to get a swing and a miss or a ground out. When he threw his cutter prior to this year, it often just bled right into the happy zone, flat and straight, like a BP fastball.

    Now James is throwing his curve and change much more often and they are his most effective pitches. His change up is so good sometimes the catcher can just tell the batter it’s coming and he’d still whiff or roll over on it. This lets him selectively work in the cutter in the appropriate spots. Shields’ command is what really sets his 2011 season apart from the rest. He gets ahead in the count and finishes off the batter instead of letting him back in the count or giving him the two strike mistake pitch. His lack of command in 2010 is what killed him. Way too many full counts and way too many mistakes thrown in those counts. Jaso didn’t help with the pitch selection.

    John Jaso should just cut off every finger on his hand besides his index finger. In 2010 Navarro and Shoppach were pretty much gone the whole year so Jaso had full reign of the pitching staff. Maybe it was because he was a rookie, but I though his game calling sucked with the whole Tampa rotation but especially Shields. Jaso loves calling the fastball which is not so bad for Price, Niemann, Davis, and Garza but murder on James Shields when the batter knows it’s coming. Shields fastball is league average at best. Maybe James should have shook off Jaso but he looked like he didn’t trust himself anymore after he got rocked a lot in late May/early June. Every 3-2 count Jaso would throw down ole number one, and like clockwork, Shields would give up a homer or rocket to the gap or down the line.

    I think Jaso grew up a little and James is more in control of his pitch selection this year. Maybe it was the mechanical tweak in his delivery, maybe it was experience, but James Shields has mastered command of his pitches this year and he has now become worthy of the elite group of non-power pitchers of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Jered Weaver (that Romero kid in Toronto may be next). I think his strand rate goes down next year and he let’s a few more cross the plate, but I think the James Shields of 2011 is here to stay.

    Comment by mgonzo777 — September 1, 2011 @ 12:09 am

  19. Oh, sorry about that!

    Comment by Sean — September 1, 2011 @ 12:22 am

  20. Clearly the problem is that in the offseason after ’08 he was assaulted by a small, pixelated, Italian plumber.

    Comment by MikeS — September 1, 2011 @ 6:51 am

  21. I see he has already thrown 6 more innings than last year while facing 71 fewer hitters. He’s also thrown 368 fewer pitches this year, and interestingly he’s thrown almost the identical percentage of strikes (65.44%), and the strikeout rate is essentially the same as last year (8.57 vs 8.28). So it seems to be what happens after the ball is hit. The BABIP seems as unsustainable this year (.265) as last year’s was (.341), while his career BABIP is .301. And thus the key question – is this sustainable? Or will he revert to his career average with a 4.00 ERA next year (or even a 3.50-3.60 as his 2010 xFIP indicated)?

    Comment by Dave I — September 1, 2011 @ 9:40 am

  22. All I know is, he blew away my Rangers last night. Dude was in the zone, pitch it, catch it, nod his head for the sign and pitch it again. All night long. Were it not for the oppressive heat, I don’t think he’d have broken a sweat.

    Comment by John — September 1, 2011 @ 10:03 am

  23. I love Shields, and he pitched 8 innings last night as well.

    But isn’t he overly “lucky” this season? Perhaps not to the extent he was unlucky last year though.

    Comment by Matty Brown — September 1, 2011 @ 1:51 pm

  24. Don’t doubt the Maddon. Again showing why he’s the best manager in the league. He invented Danks Theory for Mo’a sake!

    Comment by Peter — September 1, 2011 @ 2:35 pm

  25. I saw the extra life mushroom on his change-up and couldn’t resist looking it up. Indeed, he IS putting a little extra life on his change-up this year, as it’s up to an average velocity of 83.9 mph, compared to 83.2 last year and 82.8 for his career. :-)

    Comment by Newcomer — September 3, 2011 @ 12:04 pm

  26. I hate to sound so stupid , a bet on the line for a bottle of cheep wine, did shields win every one of his complete games in 2011??

    Comment by Jack — April 8, 2012 @ 4:37 pm

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