FanPost

From Big Time Yields to Big Game Shields

Editor's Note: This is a great extra look at James Shields's start last Sunday and is definitely worth checking out. We had a couple good FanPosts this past week, so this is our first FanPost of the Week.

There was nothing like “Big Game” Shields showing up to play on national television in the rubber match of a big series. Realizing that he has acquired other nicknames throughout the season due to his affinity to yield the long-ball, it was nice to see him return to form. I couldn’t help but notice as I watched the game last night from my apartment in North Carolina that there was a pattern about how he was attacking the Red Sox hitters. I began keeping tabs of his first pitch strikes, and later confirmed that with Pitch F/X data. I also thought it was interesting to note that before Joe Madden was rudely interrupted during his in-game interview by Mike Lowell’s leadoff double, he had stated that he would like to see James use his curveball more.

It became evident after looking at the data, that indeed, James heeded Joe’s advice. Shield threw 17 total hooks, generating 5 swinging strikes (ten strikes in total). A total of 12 of these came after the jam in the 5th inning (when Madden’s interview took place).

Inning

Pitch Type

Result

4

CU

Ball

5

CU

Ball

5

CU

Ball In Dirt

5

CU

Swinging Strike

5

CU

Swinging Strike

6

CU

Ball

6

CU

Ball In Dirt

6

CU

Called Strike

6

CU

Foul

6

CU

Foul

6

CU

In play, no out

6

CU

Swinging Strike

6

CU

Swinging Strike (Blocked)

7

CU

Ball

7

CU

Ball

7

CU

Swinging Strike

7

CU

Swinging Strike

There was also a noticeable difference in how Shields attacked each batter with the first pitch in the at-bat. Shields utilized his four seam fastball on the first pitch to every batter in the first three innings. He only used it on a first pitch 4 more times throughout the remainder of the game. I don’t know if his approach changes when he sees hitters for the second time or not, but I thought it was an interesting change in approach.

Inning

Pitch Type

Result

Inning

Pitch Type

Result

1

FF

Ball

5

CU

Ball

1

FF

Called Strike

5

CH

Ball

1

FF

In play, out(s)

5

FC

Called Strike

2

FF

Ball

5

FT

Foul

2

FF

Called Strike

5

FF

In play, no out

2

FF

Called Strike

5

FT

In play, out(s)

2

FF

Called Strike

5

FC

In play, run(s)

3

FF

Ball

6

SL

Called Strike

3

FF

Ball

6

SL

Called Strike

3

FF

Foul

6

CU

Called Strike

4

SL

Ball

6

FF

In play, out(s)

4

FF

Called Strike

6

FC

Swinging Strike

4

CH

Called Strike

7

FF

Called Strike

4

CH

Called Strike

7

SL

Called Strike

All in all, he was successful in getting ahead of the batters with first pitch strikes: Shields threw 21 first pitch strikes (13 called and 1 swinging with the rest either fouled off or put into play). He only fell behind 7 hitters to start off the at bat, and of those seven, he was able to recover and retire all seven batters (3 fly outs, 3 Ks, 1 fielder’s choice).

Interesting to note is Shield’s season splits on the first pitch, after being behind 1-0 and when getting ahead of a batter 0-1. According to baseball-reference.com, the opposition has a slash line of .456/.457/.893 with 10 HRs versus Shields on the first pitch. When he falls behind 1-0, hitters have a line of .301/.366/.517. As expected, Shields works best when ahead 0-1, with batters hitting .212/.252/.319 against him.

Last night Shields was able to overcome his history on the first pitch and put himself in a situation to help his team win. As the saying goes, big players make big plays in big games, and last night, Shields did just that.

**Source: brooksbaseball.net & baseball-reference.com**

This post was written by a member of the DRaysBay community and does not necessarily express the views or opinions of DRaysBay staff.

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