The Baseball Writers of American just announced their results for the AL Most Valuable Player award, and surprise surprise, James Shields didn't win. Nobody expected Shields to win the AL MVP, but I am surprised that he fell down so low on the ballot; both Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist finished with more points than him. Congrats to all of them....but they're not who I want to talk about right now.
In my mind at least, the MVP award is about one main thing: recognizing and praising players that had exceptional seasons. We have a tendency to get too caught up in the hoopla of the debate, though, and MVP discussions normally devolve into denigrating the other candidates while praising the one person you support. That's frustrating, though. Why can't we recognize that multiple players had impressive years? Why not use this award more as a jumping-off point for simply highlighting which player you thought was most incredible and amazing this season?
So even though he didn't win the MVP, I'd like to draw everyone's attention to James Shields. The Rays haven't played a game in a month and a half, and I'm beginning to gain a sense of perspective on this past season. What was pretty incredible at the time looks even more impressive in retrospect:
Technically, David Price had a heck of a 2011 season as well. He increased his strikeout rate and lowered his walk rate, while throwing more innings and posting a better FIP, SIERA, and WAR. I could have also put that season up there as well, as it was arguably better than Kazmir's season (heck, their ERAs were nearly identical). But for the sake of symmetry, I decided to chose one season for each pitcher.
So which pitcher had the best single season in Rays history? I think when you look at it as a whole, it's impossible not to choose Shields. He had impressive results, no matter if you look at traditional or saber stats, and he was an absolute workhorse. His 11 complete games led the majors by three -- Roy Halladay was in second with eight -- and it was one of the highest complete game totals of the past decade.
With that performance last season, we can now officially dub Shields the best pitcher in franchise history...period:
One day Price may pass Shields, but for now at least, he's the reigning champ. And after his performance last season, he deserves every single accolade sent his way.
And yes, Bryan Rekar is rated as one of the top five pitchers in Rays history by fWAR. He did have a good-ish season in 2000...but yeah, wow. That just drives home the point that the Rays had crap pitching staffs up until 2008.
So kudos to you, Shields. Here's hoping you don't leave us anytime soon.