The Mariners should avoid James Shields this offseason as a free agent starting pitcher.
I say this not because he is a bad pitcher– he isn’t– or because he is a bad guy– he seems nice enough to me– but for one simple reason. He hasn’t been ‘Big Game’ James Shields in the playoffs in quite some time.
I understand by this logic that the Mariners wouldn’t want Clayton Kershaw, which of course is absurd because Kershaw is one of the best in the Majors. But because the Mariners are just a few short steps away from becoming a postseason team, I am tempted to look into the future and examine the implications signings would have on the playoffs.
James Shields has been a solid regular season starter to say the least. In 286 games in the Major Leagues, Shields has a record of 114-90 with a 3.72 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP. He would slot perfectly as the number 3 in the Mariners rotation in 2015.
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It’s when the postseason starts that “Big Game” James becomes less valuable. Aside from the 2008 playoffs where Shields pitched 25.0 innings of 8 run ball ( an ERA of 3.125), James Shields has been less than stellar in October.
In three subsequent postseason appearances– in 2010 with the Rays, in 2011 with the Rays, and the current 2014 run with the Kansas City Royals– Shields has pitched 25.1 innings.
In those 25.1 innings, he has allowed 21 earned runs while striking out 23 and walking 5. His post-2008 postseason ERA is 7.46 and he has a 1-2 record.
Presuming that he’s being particularly bad now and was particularly better in 2008, his total postseason ERA is 5.19 and his WHIP is 1.47. Those numbers leave something to be desired. And if the Mariners made the playoffs I wouldn’t feel comfortable putting James Shields on the mound based on these samples.
I am aware that this fear can be written off by Sabermetricians and the belief by some that being ‘clutch’ or ‘un-clutch’ doesn’t exist.
But for me, as a Mariners fan who hasn’t seen playoff baseball since I was 8 years old, I wouldn’t want him on the team with that sort of playoff record. Maybe I’m the crazy one though.
I’m not saying I’m right, and I’m not even really saying that James Shields is bad in the playoffs. If I were the Mariners, I’d shy away from James Shields.
But again, that’s just one man’s opinion on “Big Game” James Shields.