As you all know by now, there is no baseball and will be none for the foreseeable future. No training, no scouting, no playing, and no idea when these things will return.
Baseball players are as bored as we are — probably more so, in fact, as most of us have jobs we are trying to do from home or classes we are trying to complete online, while these guys are unlikely to have a Plan B. A few have taken to Twitter to amuse us:
Locked inside in Fort Myers.. so @blainehardy65 gave me a pitching demo #BeachBall #toddler— Nicky Hardy (@nyckabrick) March 16, 2020
Sean Doolittle (Washington Nationals reliever) and his wife Eireann Dolan have been videotaping AMA sessions, here’s session number one:
Also, stats guys don’t need actual baseball games to keep active! Ben Clemens is looking for new ways to measure plate discipline.
Finally, as we are likely to be without actual baseball for a while, I thought I’d use my weekly Catwalk column to indulge in some nostalgia for favorite Rays and Rays games of yesteryear.
Today I’ll focus on 2011 James Shields. This is the “if you don’t like it, pitch better” guy, the player who was drafted in the 16th round following a shoulder injury and worked his way to a lengthy major league career. He was never the hardest throwing guy on the mound, and his fly ball tendencies could make him very home-run prone.
But 2011 was the year it all came together for him, and it was amazing. I don’t oppose the Cash era Rays preference for keeping pitchers on a short leash — most pitchers really do get worse as they tire and opposing teams see them three or four times. But that strategy means we may never see another pitcher season like this one. Shields pitched just a hair less than 250 innings, managing to end with a 2.82 ERA (and please don’t tell me about his 3.42 FIP, I want to have my moment).
And, he pitched eleven (11) complete games.
Here’s a complete game against the Astros from June:
And another against Toronto later that season:
I can’t think of a right-handed pitcher with a better pick-off move:
Indeed, I think his only misstep in 2011 was this: