Padres Editorial: “Big Game” James or Big Time Bust?

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Mandatory Credit: Getty Images
Mandatory Credit: Getty Images

Out of all the San Diego Padres off-season moves, the signing of James Shields to the largest contract in Padres history, at four years and 75 million, was perhaps the biggest splash of them all. The Padres had never thrown that much money at any player let alone one of the top pitchers of 2014 and the hottest arm on the free agent market. More so than any of the other moves, the signing of Shields represented a real changing of the guard for the San Diego Padres.

James Shields initially gained fame during the Rays initial Cinderella run to the 2008 World Series. This was his third season with the team and in total he pitched seven seasons with the team before being traded to the Kansas City Royals following the 2012 season.

In Kansas City in 2014, the Royals would duplicate the Rays Cinderella run to the World Series and James Shields was once again in the middle of it all. The Royals, just as in 2008 with the Rays, fell just short of a title.

Following another strong regular season, and more importantly postseason, performance James Shields was widely viewed by many to be the best pitcher on the free agent market. After trading for Wil Myers, Justin Upton, Matt Kemp, Derek Norris, Will Middlebrooks, among others the Padres put the finishing touches on the off-season with the signing of “Big Game” James Shields. Upon signing the Padres expected Shields to be the horse at the top of the lineup that would lead the Padres into the playoffs as he did with both the Royals and Rays.

So far this season, things have been anything but smooth sailing for both James Shields and the San Diego Padres as a team. For a guy with such a large contract, a lot was expected of Shields and many of these promises have gone largely undelivered. The Padres find themselves under .500 and James Shields, despite a good win-loss record of 7-2, finds himself performing worse than many of his career numbers.

Over the course of his nine-year career in the American League, had a total FIP of 3.77, a WHIP of 1.22, and finally an ERA+ of 111. In comparison, so far in San Diego Shields has had an ERA of 4.24, a FIP of 4.00, a WHIP of 1.33 and an ERA+ of 85. Most of his numbers with the San Diego Padres in 2015 have been off his career marks. While the variation seems slight in some regards, the ERA over 4.00 is definitely most alarming along with his career high 1.5 home runs for 9 innings compared to his career mark of 1.1.

What these numbers demonstrate is that Shields has underperformed many of his career marks. While his strikeout rate is at an all time high, it seems his other numbers are suffering as a result of this increase or suffering independent of this increase. Either way Shields is not pitching like a player who is deserving of the largest contract in Padres franchise history. It’s too early to say James Shields is an outright bust but he has clearly not lived up to his “Big Game” moniker in his first season with the Padres.

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