It was known that James Shields was going to be difficult to replace heading into the season. His status as a top of the rotation pitcher was unquestioned, and while getting back Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi, amongst others, was an excellent return, it was expected that Shields would be missed in the rotation. However, both Matt Moore and Alex Cobb stepped up, and the Rays appeared as though they were able to continue on without missing a pitcher who had earned the moniker “Big Game James.”
That is, they appeared to move along seamlessly until the ALDS. Moore and Price were hit uncharacteristically hard by the Red Sox, and the Rays appeared to be in need of a veteran presence that could have potentially stopped the bleeding. Although the Rays pitched much better in games Three and Four, the damage had been done. Is it possible that the Rays missed James Shields after all?
While Shields has been great during the regular season, that success has not translated into the postseason. In six postseason starts, Shields is 2-4 with a 4.98 ERA, with both wins coming in the 2008 run to the World Series. In his past two playoff starts, Shields has given up eleven runs in his last 9.1 innings, giving up twelve hits and hitting four batters. Not exactly the type of outings that one would be looking for from a top of the rotation starter.
However, where Shields may have been missed is due to his experience. Along with David Price, Shields went through the World Series run, only he did it as a starter. Having another veteran presence in the rotation that could potentially help keep everyone calm after the disastrous ‘double’ hit by David Ortiz in Game One of the ALDS. Maybe more than anything else, on a team that is loaded with intangibles, the Rays were missing that one calming influence.
Chances are, the Rays would not have made the postseason without Myers in the lineup. Yet, once in the postseason, they may have missed James Shields more than they thought they were going to during the regular season.