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James Shields Must Become The Road Warrior Today In Fenway

Mad Max, the Legion of Doom, James Shields. This is what the Rays need. They need a road warrior

James Shields is very good, even great at times. However, most of that goodness or greatness usually comes at Tropicana Field. Without researching every major league starter, I would say that most of them would have more success at home than on the road. Pitchers are creatures of habit. They go through the same routines before home games. They are more familiar with the mound and the dimensions of ballpark. In general, they are just more comfortable at home; James Shields is no different.

Shields learned a valuable lesson in 2008. Simply stated, he needed to get into a better routine on the road. His road numbers were drastically different than his numbers at home, which prompted some introspection on Shields' part. Eventually, Shields addressed the situation with Maddon and pitching coach Jim Hickey.

"I brought it up to them," Shields said. "Over the last three years, obviously, I've been a lot better at home than I have been on the road.--MLB.com

Here are the career home/road splits for Shields

W-L

ERA

BAA

OBP

SLG

OPSA

Home

20-8

3.17

0.244

0.289

0.392

0.681

Road

12-16

4.71

0.276

0.321

0.458

0.779

Two different pitchers. Shields is an ace at home and your average 5th starter on the road. Here are a little more in depth stats:

H/9

HR/9

BB/9

K/9

K/BB

OPSA+

Home

8.28

0.99

1.8

7.5

4.11

88

Road

9.72

1.35

1.89

7

3.72

114

More hits, home runs, walks and less strikeouts. That would do the trick. Shields's control isn't awful on the road by any stretch. His 3.72 K/BB away from the Trop is very good, but the extra hits and home runs are what hurt him.

Remember, home field for Shields is a nice, climate controlled dome where wind and other elements of weather don't affect his pitches. He is free to throw that nasty change up and not worry if the wind is carrying out to a certain part of the field. I would think this is the biggest difference, however, if you talk to Shields, the biggest problem on the road has been getting into that same home routine.

"I'm a big routine guy. I realized that at home, obviously, it's easy to get into a routine, because you have all the amenities. Everything you need [is] right there in front of you. On the road, they've only got a couple of tubs. And we take BP second on the road, so everyone's in the clubhouse late. Everyone's using the tub. Basically what it was, it was kind of like I wasn't getting ready on time, or I wasn't getting ready soon enough, or too quickly. I'm a big routine guy."--MLB.com

Shields will make his fourth start in Fenway Park today. Obviously, Shields has not figured out how to get in a routine in Boston. In his three previous starts, Shields is 0-3 with a 10.13 ERA. Sure it's a small sample size, but Shields is averaging under four innings a start and has given up 18 hits in just 10.2 innings. That's just not going to cut it.

With the extra day off before opening day, I wonder if Shields has had enough time to sort out his pre-game ritual. As RJ pointed out, the Rays haven't had much success vs. Josh Beckett and if they want to start the season with a W, they are going to have to rely on the right arm of James Shields to do so. For our sake, I hope that Shields feels right at home today.