Yesterday, James Shields put together his strongest start yet in a season filled with strong performances.
Shields mowed down the Marlins with a 13-strikeout, 1-walk, 3-hit shutout. It was Shields’ third complete game and second shutout of the season, raising his career to new heights. Prior to this season, Shields had only thrown three nine-inning complete games* and two shutouts in his entire career.
How impressive was Shields on Sunday? If we use Bill James’ Game Score metric, which looks at a pitchers overall performance in a single game, Shields start on Sunday was the best in Major League Baseball this season.
And if we team that with his back-to-back starts against the Jays and White Sox in April, Shields now has three of the top 15 starts in the AL this season…
On the season, Shields is 5-2 with a 2.00 ERA, 8.6 strikeouts per 9 innings and an amazing 4.9 strikeouts for every walk (typically 3.0 is considered very good).
Does this mean Shields is an early favorite for the American League Cy Young Award? Let’s take a look at how Shields resume stacks up against some other top pitchers.
The only place Shields truly distinguishes himself is Game Score and his three dominating starts. No other pitcher has more than one of the top 25 starts in the AL this season.
But overall, Shields has to at least be in the mix. In fact, according to ESPN.com’s “Cy Young Predictor,” Shields is third in the AL.
Obviously there is a long ways to go. But so far, Shields has set himself up for what could be a magical summer.
* Shields had 5 complete games in his career prior to this season. However, two of those were losses in which he only worked 8 innings.