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  1. The one thing that is concerning me is that he is giving up more hits this season. In light of your info, though, I expect that to regress a bit. Probably luck driven.

    Comment by shawnuel — June 1, 2012 @ 1:34 pm

  2. Great insights Dave, thanks.

    Comment by pudieron89 — June 1, 2012 @ 1:35 pm

  3. His Pitch Type / Pitchf/x Pitch Type charts are all over the board the last few years. He’s either in a constant state of evolution, or it’s just really hard to tell what and when he’s pitching something.

    Comment by baty — June 1, 2012 @ 1:38 pm

  4. More groundballs generally means more singles. Many of us have always groaned at Shields’ “hittability” but one thing to consider this season is the patchwork defense he’s been playing in front of as opposed to the more consistent diamond of previous years. Until Longoria gets back it’s a revolving door of Sean Rodrigues, Elliot Johnson, and defensive scrubs at 3B/SS/2B.

    Comment by pudieron89 — June 1, 2012 @ 1:41 pm

  5. If you look at the movement plots, it looks like his two-seam/four-seam/cutter/slider are all part of one big blob, so it’s pretty tough to definitively say that he’s throwing x% cutters and y% sliders. Basically, he has a distinct curve, a distinct change, and then four four pitches that are pretty similar. Probably contributes to how hard it is to hit him since he has so many options.

    Comment by Dave Cameron — June 1, 2012 @ 1:43 pm

  6. I know that hitters generally experience an increase in power and walk rates as they age, but what trends can we expect for pitchers? Shields is 30 is it reasonable to expect for the ground ball trend to continue?

    Comment by Sam — June 1, 2012 @ 1:46 pm

  7. Generally, lower pitch velocity, increased hair loss, and more frequent flatulence.

    Comment by Father Time — June 1, 2012 @ 1:56 pm

  8. Sun Sports ran a great graphic during his last start showing that he’s mixing pitches thusly:

    CH: 30%
    FF: 25%
    FC: 25%
    CU: 20%

    Shields fell in love with his cutter before he had honed it, but now it’s proving to be a capable and effective pitch. The change is still his meal ticket, but batters not being able to key on the fastball has been splendid, and the curve is a great pitch to keep batters off balance even if it’s only a 60 pitch.

    Comment by Sandy Kazmir — June 1, 2012 @ 2:18 pm

  9. Hey, I resemble that remark..

    Comment by fergie348 — June 1, 2012 @ 2:19 pm

  10. “There are so many variables in ERA that a pitcher has little or no control over, and evaluating a pitcher by the amount of “earned runs” (whatever that means) he allows often causes us to miss real changes that do tell us something about what we should expect in the future.”

    So, basically, its exactly like FIP.

    Comment by RC — June 1, 2012 @ 2:48 pm

  11. but FIP has nothing to do with runs scored at all, earned or otherwise? Except home runs, of course.

    Maybe you should read this http://www.fangraphs.com/library/index.php/pitching/fip/ or watch the video with the pretty pictures if reading is too difficult.

    Comment by pudieron89 — June 1, 2012 @ 3:22 pm

  12. Pitch F/x says he’s throwing a slider, but it’s really the cutter. He never speaks of throwing a slider.

    Comment by Erik Hahmann — June 1, 2012 @ 3:48 pm

  13. If the change in Shields’s GB rate are here to stay, isn’t it reasonable to conclude his HR% will regress to the mean. It’s very high this year, much higher than league average, so the likely reduction in his HR/9 should improve his numbers even more.

    Comment by chuckb — June 1, 2012 @ 4:44 pm

  14. Since groundball rates for pitchers tend to stabilize fairly quickly, I think you have made a convincing case that Shields has taken another step forward. I’m more apt to comment on posts on which I disagree or can offer a different perspective, but in this case I’ll make an exception: Well done.

    Comment by rotofan — June 1, 2012 @ 4:49 pm

  15. Both of those guys are pretty good defenders (and Rhymes is also just a hair below average probably). You’re basing their defense on what their UZRs look like right now – while that /may/ explain a bit of Shields’ luck, it’s certainly not enough to conclude that he’s only getting hit because of “patchwork defense”.

    Shields does have a pretty high career BABIP for a guy who was a flyball pitcher until this season. He’s still a great pitcher, but he does seem to be the type who will consistently give up more hits than average, especially as a groundball pitcher.

    Comment by ThePartyBird — June 1, 2012 @ 5:17 pm

  16. An Ace is a STOPPER! That is, he is supposed to stop losing streaks.
    I think people make too much about statistics, and too little on
    analysis and interpretation of the stats. For example, if a pitcher
    starts out with an average of less than two runs for his first ten
    games in a season, and then gives up 8 – 10 earned runs in the
    11th game, that is going to skew the stats sample. In addition,
    if there are weak links on the rotation (injuries etc.), opposing
    teams will try to match their ace against yours, and take their
    chances with the rest of their rotation and bullpen, if they’re
    strong. This will also skew an ace’s stats. But, it should not
    affect the ERA much. Look at King Felix’s ERA. Also, Kevin
    Brown was a power pitcher, but had one of the most wicked
    sinkers in baseball. At one time, he was the best paid player
    which goes to show you that a fast ball and sinker work well
    together. Halladay is the best pitcher in baseball. He has 4
    pitches, uses different speeds, throws all of them for
    strikes, and throws a fast game. He does not allow batters
    much time to think, or make adjustments. In business,
    successful people copy SUCCESSFUL persons. Its dog eat
    dog. Young pitchers should do the same, instead of trying
    to reinvent the wheel! There is no such thing as a pitcher’s
    duel. Its the pitcher vs. batter. And, if batters are too
    succesful against you, it would not hurt to copy cat
    Halladay. It just migh prevent a return tour to the minors.

    Comment by Juan Chapa — June 1, 2012 @ 7:31 pm

  17. uh…

    whoa, dude.

    Comment by JDanger — June 1, 2012 @ 8:00 pm

  18. If your two-seam/four-seam/cutter/slider are apparently the same pitch, in what sense is it not just one pitch?

    Comment by monkey business — June 1, 2012 @ 10:17 pm

  19. Looking at this type of analysis appears like an argument for tERA, but his tERA says that his ERA is dead on (well, off by 0.2).

    But even if we do give you FIP but peek at GB%, the we still have the problem that GB pitchers are LD pitchers, and his LD % has stayed relatively flat from previous years to 2012. I’d be willing to bet that:

    1) What is getting scored as GBs includes several very well hit balls that are flying (though not literally) through the infield and unlikely to get caught and not bad fielding luck
    2) His LD% goes up while his GB% goes down as the season goes on.

    Comment by monkey business — June 1, 2012 @ 10:36 pm

  20. Actually, his home run rate is pretty much exactly league-average this year. .029 per batter faced versus the league average of .028. Or if you prefer frequency per 9 innings, 1.11 versus league average of 1.08. Splitting hairs if you want to call him anything other than league average in home run rate.

    Comment by Nathaniel Dawson — June 1, 2012 @ 11:35 pm

  21. Can’t say much about the content, but I can at least give you props for your grammar and spelling.

    One grammar mistake (should have had a comma in this sentence: “At one time, he was the best paid player(,) which goes to show you that a fast ball and sinker work well together.”

    A spelling error here: “…opposing teams will try to match their ace against your(‘)s…”

    One more spelling error here: “It just migh(t) prevent a return tour to the minors.”

    Altogether, not a bad effort. A few slight errors, but for the most part, well within the bounds of reasonable internet commenting. Certainly, content is important, but you at least have a good grasp of proper grammar and spelling.

    Comment by Nathaniel Dawson — June 1, 2012 @ 11:57 pm

  22. yea, why don’t we look at tERA more? Let’s pretend you give up a home run with the wind blowing out hard, that’s sort of luck is it not? So instead let’s also include LD, GB, and FB. I think that paints a much more complete picture. If a guy gives up 4 straight doubles drilled in the gap, FIP doesn’t recognize it. Says it was luck. The only luck would be that they weren’t HR or hit right at someone.

    Second thing, can we not measure the speed of the ball off the bat? How about we further divide BIP into how hard they are hit off the bat? A GB is good unless it’s smoked up the line. You could quantify that if you knew the speed of the ball off the bat.

    Comment by Antonio Banana — June 2, 2012 @ 12:20 am

  23. Monk, you can grip the ball differently and put pressure on it in a slightly different way to make it break more or less or in a different direction. Buerhle talked about it in a Laurila interview I believe.

    Comment by nolan — June 2, 2012 @ 2:12 am

  24. Ace means, literally the best pitcher on the teams pitching staff. I don’t see the title relating to the article written. I thought this was going to be an article comparing shields to price, Moore, etc.

    An ace isn’t just a top pitcher in baseball. James McDonald is an ace, and Cliff Lee isn’t. Curt Schilling wasn’t an ace in 01 and 02 either.

    Just the wrong word to use.

    Comment by Jeffrey — June 2, 2012 @ 3:07 am

  25. And the best hitter is the one with the most RBI, right? This was just a dumb attempt at criticism. I hope Cole Hamels has fun trying to land a huge contract this offseason since he’s only a # 3 starter.

    Comment by GorillaKilla — June 2, 2012 @ 6:33 am

  26. Actually, his use of “ace” is how people in the industry use the word.
    An “ace” is generally considered to have several above-average pitches, an elite level of command and control, durability, and an extended track record of success. Obviously this still leaves quite a bit of gray area, but right now there are only roughly ten or twelve or so true aces in baseball, and I assure you, James McDonald is not one of them.
    Whether a guy is the best pitcher on any one staff at any given time is irrelevant. It is not how the word is used in baseball among scouts and front offices.

    Comment by Johnny Big Potatoes — June 2, 2012 @ 8:46 am

  27. Christ, look up the definition. I was being literal, not facetious or saying anything even close to what you said. An ‘ace’ by definition is the best pitcher on a teams pitching staff. Literally. If you want to say James Shields is becoming a legitimate front line starter, or that he is becoming a top pitcher in baseball, then this article would be correct. But the use of the word ‘ace’ is thrown around incorrectly all the time in baseball and on forums.

    Not trying to be a smart-ass. It’s simply the wrong word to use for this posting.

    Comment by Jeffrey — June 3, 2012 @ 5:35 pm

  28. I didn’t write the definition. Maybe baseballs front offices should let Merriam-Webster in on this, or maybe they should change their usage of the word ;)

    Comment by Jeffrey — June 3, 2012 @ 5:38 pm

  29. Jeffrey – if everyone apart from you uses a word one way, it’s probably going to be you that has to change, even if you can find a dictionary that supports your argument. If you’re actually not bothered and are just trolling, feel free to bash on.

    Comment by Simon — June 4, 2012 @ 9:12 am

  30. Hepped up on goofballs everybody! High as a kite…

    Comment by Clancy W — June 4, 2012 @ 11:33 am

  31. When did we in society decide to ignore the dictionary and make up our own meanings to words? It is a mis-interpreted word.

    Comment by Jeffrey — June 4, 2012 @ 3:09 pm

  32. Great article about Shields! Do you think that with all these factors – increase GB rate coupled with the K rate – that much of the blame for a high ERA can be attributed back to the defense that is supporting him? Last year’s Rays defense was tops in the league and while it still ranks relatively high in 2012, do you think he’s suffering a bit from the loss of Longoria and the reshuffling of Sean Rodriguez from short to third?

    Comment by Will — June 7, 2012 @ 9:25 am

  33. So, in 8 starts since this article he’s had a 5.15 ERA and 1.72 WHIP. 72 hits in 50 IP… at what point does it stop being attributed to bad luck? K/BB is still respectable but for whatever reason he gives up a lot of solid contact. It would be really nice to have batted ball data include average speed off the bat.

    Comment by Skin Blues — July 16, 2012 @ 2:55 pm

  34. So, in the 7 starts since this comment he’s had a 2.98 ERA and 0.82 WHIP. 32 hits in 51.1 IP… at what point does it start being attributed to good talent? K/BB is still respectable but for whatever reason people don’t want to admit that Shields just might be as good as some of the bigger names.

    Comment by The Truth — August 28, 2012 @ 9:41 am

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