|BAL||RH J. Guthrie||175.1||3.70||125||6.31||2.41||2.62||1.18||.712||1.21||1.11||14.51|
LH Jeremy Guthrie, Baltimore-It's a rematch of Opening Day, as Baltimore sends Jeremy Guthrie to the hill to oppose Jamie Shields. The Rays are pretty unique among major league teams in that they seem to have no problem with disposing of the Baltimore southpaw, statistically. He's faced the Rays more than any other major league team and has a 5.40 ERA to show for it. The Rays roughed him up on Opening Day in what was, until yesterday, Baltimore's only loss of the year. He pitched well in his last start against Seattle to lower his ERA to 5.11 through two starts; hopefully we'll get the Opening Day version of Guthrie this evening. He's a guy that was on absolutely nobody's radar prior to last season, when he threw for a 3.70 ERA over 26 starts and six relief appearances. His completely unprecedented "breakout" last season begs an obvious question: was it a fluke? The chances of that are a definite maybe. His strikeout numbers were not spectacular last year, but even then they outpaced his minor league track record. Similarly, his walk rate was decent last year, but that wasn't something that he did particularly well in the minor leagues. He had a tendency to give up the long ball last year, as evidenced by his high HR/9, and he was on the lucky side with balls in play.
Does this mean that Guthrie will regress? In all likelihood, yes. It could just be that as a 29 year old, his performance is peaking and these upward trends are entirely legitimate. More likely, though, it means that Guthrie is a 29 year old pitcher whose peaking performance is major league quality, but not at the level we saw last year. I don't think Guthrie is a bad pitcher, but I do think that his relatively mediocre peripherals will catch up to him this year, as in mid-4 ERA. That's not too bad, especially in the American League, but I do think that he will struggle a bit in not being able to rely on lack of familiarity in facing AL hitters. To put in succinctly, Guthrie is not an Opening Day starter, and not even a No. 2. He is a fringe No. 3 and a solid No. 4 in a decent rotation, and the sooner the O's can get the personnel befitting that reality, the better it is for them.
RH Jamie Shields, RAYS-Where would the Rays be without Jamie Shields? It's an all-too-familiar refrain that Rays fans have grown accustomed to hearing over the last year, and it isn't going to let up anytime soon. With two of the preseason's "big three" set up to miss at least a month each of regular season play before returning, Shields is once again playing the steady hand adorning the top of the rotation. And he's doing a pretty damn good job at it, too.
Through the first two starts of the season, Shields has been his typical self. After a solid season-opening win against the Orioles, Shields was dealt a setback this past Sunday in New York. Actually, setback is too strong of a word. Shields actually had better control in this past Sunday's start, but an uneconomical pitch count and a plethora of hits given up forced him from the game after the fifth inning. His only run-producing mistake was a two-run homer in the fourth by Yankee RF Hideki Matsui. Still, on the whole, Shields has been his dependable self through two games.
Something on his side this year is his track record. He got off to a good start last year in April and May before struggling a bit in the summer months, but quite frankly the team should be in a good shape if he is able to follow that pattern this year. More than ever, the team needs a successful Shields during those first two months to offset the losses of RHP Matt Garza and LHP Scott Kazmir. If he can pick up the slack, he will be the team's ace. For a starter that turns it up a notch when the team needs him the most is, to me, dependable and the true definition of an ace.