When someone begins talking about the Rays rotation, most skip to Scott Kazmir or David Price or even Matt Garza, yet neither of those trio can claim the title of best Rays starter in 2008. Instead, that honor goes to James Shields. The-soon-to-be 27 year old right-hander completed his second consecutive 200-plus inning season and duplicated the tendencies that have made him one of the more successful pitchers in the American League East.
Shields 2007 and 2008 share a ton of similarities. In both seasons, Shields completed 215 innings and faced 874 and 877 batters respectively. Shields walked four more, and allowed four less homeruns, but the only thing that truly changed were his strikeouts, which dropped a full strikeout per nine. Shields pitch usage remained largely the same as well; using his fastball about 45% of the time, a cutter, a curve, and his change-up, one of the premiere breaking pitches in the league. Shields batted balls also remained the same, as you can see below, and his batting average on balls in play was yet again .292.
Moving forward there’s no reason to believe Shields can’t repeat for a third successful year, although perhaps not a clone of the prior two seasons.
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