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The Rays Tank: Lifting James Shields was defensible

Ed Zurga

Can I just first say what a joy it was to see James Shields on the mound again? Watching him lead the Royals from the mound and the dug out are precisely why he was acquired, and watching him top out at 95 along the way was thrilling.

One of the major topics of conversation, and a poll at the end of Ian's recap, is how great a decision it was to pull Shields with less than 90 pitches, two on, and none out in the sixth.

My gut reaction was that it was the right decision, particularly in a one-game playoff, where aggressive bullpen use is the best defense. My qualm might be the selections of pitcher. The first preference in any case was 98-mph reliever Wade Davis, who you might remember as a mediocre starter in Tampa Bay. As the best non-closer reliever, his use would have been ideal, but Ned Yost was reserving him for the eighth.

Next I might have preferred Finnegan, 100-mph slinging first-year prospect, essentially David Price a la 2008. Given his youth and the high pressure, I can see how that was avoided until absolutely necessary -- which it would be a few innings later. Yost wanted Finnegan in his back pocket for later use, and that's defensible.

Third, there was Ventura, another 100-mph arm, but a starter all season. He got up in the sixth as a just-in-case, beginning his routing throw day between starts. When the jam occurred, I would argue Ned Yost made the right move by turning to the bullpen, and a defensible one in Ventura (who was already warming!). He'd exhibited a reverse split all year, so I'm not worried about the platoon per se, he gets the ERA discount of pitching in relief, and pumping gas inside to Brandon "my favorite kind of" Moss should have been effective.

It just so happened that Moss cranked his second home run of the evening, after months of a power out (three home runs since the Cespedes trade, a stat the announcers found to be meaningful), on the third pitch. Bad result, good process, great choice.

You can read Ian's inspired recap here.


Pedro disagrees with me, so I'm probably wrong.

- Longo has a new promotion brewing with New Balance:

- Jonah Keri gives his off-season hardware predictions; meanwhile, Baseball Prospectus made up a bunch of fake ones

- In the aftermath of last night's odysee AL Wild Card, Grant Bisbee gave his hot take on the maddening nature of baseball

- If you're face is still glowing from seeing the glory of God on display and want more, you can read more about James Shields's change up renaissance from two days ago on Fangraphs

- Finally, and this has been established, but dammit I miss James Shields - I couldn't be happier that the Royals are on to the next round (to face Mike Trout's Angels).