James Anthony Shields
(Big Game James, Jamie)
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 4", Weight 214 lb.
- High School William S. Hart High School
- Debut May 31, 2006
James Shields was drafted by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the 16th round of the 2000 amateur draft. He was signed by scout Fred Repke and made his pro debut the next summer. He reached the major leagues with the Devil Rays at the end of May, 2006 and immediately stepped into the starting rotation. Shields was the first pitcher in franchise history to begin his career 4-0. He made 21 starts as a rookie, with a record of 6-8, 4.84. and became one of the most durable starters in the majors beginning in 2007, as he made at least 31 starts and pitched over 200 innings every season since that year. He had a very good 12-8 record for a very poor Devil Rays team in 2007, and when the team suddenly became competitive in 2008, when they became the Tampa Bay Rays, he contributed to the turnaround with a 14-8 season, a 3.56 ERA and an American League-leading 2 shutouts as the team's number 2 starter behind Scott Kazmir. He earned his nickname, "Big Game James", for his many clutch outings that season. He won a game in the ALDS against the Chicago White Sox, and another one over the Phialdelphia Phillies in the World Series, when he tossed 5 2/3 shutout innings in a Game 2 start on October 23rd. It remains the only World Series game ever won by the Rays. He lost both of his starts against the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS, but still pitched well, giving up only 5 earned runs in 13 innings of work for a 3.46 ERA.
Shields hovered around .500 in 2009 and 2010 as Matt Garza and David Price becoming the team's top two starters after Kazmir was traded. he went 11-12, 4.14 the first year and 13-15, 5.18 the second. On August 7, 2010, he tied an American League record by allowing 6 home runs in a 17-11 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays, including the first major league homer by J.P. Arencibia. He started Game 2 of the ALDS against the Texas Rangers that year, but was tagged with a 6-0 loss. In June 2011, he pitched three consecutive complete games, the first Rays pitcher to accomplish such a feat. he was named to the All-Star team that season and finished the year with an excellent record of 16-12, 2.82, leading the AL in both complete games (11) and shutouts (4). However, once again he was beaten by the Rangers in his only postseason start, losing Game 2 of the ALDS, 8-6. He had another solid season in 2012, with a record of 15-10, 3.52. On October 2nd, in his last ever start for the Rays, he struck out 15 batters and walked none in a 1-0 complete game loss to the Baltimore Orioles; the 15 strikeouts set a team record that was tied in 2015 by Chris Archer. He topped the 200-strikeout mark in both 2011 and 2012, recording 225 and 223 those two years.
On December 9, 2012, he was traded to the Kansas City Royals along with P Wade Davis in return for prospects Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery and Patrick Leonard. He gave the Royals everything they expected in his two seasons with the team. The Royals climbed to respectability in 2013 when he went 13-9, 3.15 in 34 starts, then in 2014, they made it all the way to the World Series, where they lost in 7 games to the San Francisco Giants. Shields went 14-8, 3.21 in 34 starts. He pitched over 220 innings both seasons, including an American League-leading 228 2/3 innings in 2013, and had 196 and 180 strikeouts. He started the 2014 Wild Card Game against the Oakland Athletics , the Royals' first postseason appearance since the 1985 World Series, then won his only start of the ALDS over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. He did not pitch as well in his last three postseason starts and was charged with a pair of losses in the World Series, facing Giants ace Madison Bumgarner both times, but it is clear that his imposing presence as the team's ace had been key to getting Kansas City that far.
Shields was much sought-after when he became a free agent following the 2014 season. On February 8, 2015, reports indicated that he had reached a four-year deal with the San Diego Padres. Worth $75 million, it was the biggest contract in Padres history to that point. It was somewhat below what was expected for a pitcher with his track record of success, but many potential suitors, placing perhaps too much weight on his struggles in the World Series and his propensity to give up home runs, seemed to be concerned that he would not continue to pitch at his established level. However, he was outstanding in his first few weeks with the Padres, as his record stood at 5-0 after 8 starts. He did lead the National League with 12 homers allowed, but that seemed irrelevant in light of his record, innings pitched, and league-leading 64 strikeouts. He became the first Padres pitcher to win his first 6 decisions in a season since Andy Hawkins had started the 1985 season 11-0. He ended up with a record of 13-7, 3.91, making 33 starts and logging 202 1/3 innings with 216 strikeouts. He also led the NL with 33 homers allowed and was one of the few of the Padres' high-priced off-season acquisitions not to be a major disappointment.
However, the Padres continued to struggle in 2016 and he had a rough start himself, going 2-7, 4.28 over his first 11 starts. On June 4th, the Padres decided to move him and his large contract, accepting to pick up $31 million of the $58 million remaining on his contract to send him to the Chicago White Sox. In return, they received 17-year-old infielder Fernando Tatis Jr. and P Erik Johnson. The White Sox stated that he did not need to pitch as an ace for Chicago, but simply to be a solid member of the rotation behind top-ranked starters Chris Sale and José Quintana. The White Sox did not get what they had hoped, however, as Shields was simply awful in his first three starts for them, going 0-2 with an ERA of 21.81, giving up a whopping 21 earned runs on 24 hits in just 8 2/3 innings. Including his last start for the Padres, it was 31 runs he had coughed up in 11 1/3 innings. The last pitcher to have had a ERA higher than his 24.62 over a span of four starts had been Chad Durbin at 30.52 over a particularly brutal stretch in 2000. He pitched slightly better after that, but still went only 4-12, 6.77 for the Pale Hose to finish the season at 6-19, 5.85 in 33 starts and 181 2/3 innings. He led the major leagues in losses (19), earned runs allowed (118) and homers allowed (40).
In 2017, he had an excellent month of April, giving up just one run in each of his first three starts to go 1-0, 1.62 for the month, logging 16 2/3 innings. However, he went on the disabled list after that, and he was back to being hit hard when he returned on June 18th. Still, he stayed in the starting rotation in spite of his struggles. On September 9th, however, he had a rare strong performance when he defeated the San Francisco Giants, 13-1, allowing just 1 run in 7 innings, the first time he allowed that few runs in a game since April. The win was his first since June 29th, as he had had a span of 11 winless starts since. He was helped by six home runs from his teammates, one of them by Jose Abreu who hit for the cycle in the win. He went 5-7, 5.23 for the year, with 21 starts and 121 innings pitched. In 2018, he showed up in spring training planning to recapture his past success by effecting a radical change: he had re-jiggered his delivery to become a side-arm pitcher, a move that had already paid some dividends late the previous season.
- AL All-Star (2011)
- AL Complete Games Leader (2011)
- 2-time AL Shutouts Leader (2008 & 2011)
- 15 Wins Seasons: 2 (2011 & 2012)
- 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 9 (2007-2015)
- 200 Strikeouts Seasons: 3 (2011, 2012 & 2015)
- Scott Boeck: "James Shields, mired in historically horrid 4-start stretch, faces Red Sox", USA Today Sports, June 23, 2016. 
- Paul Casella: "10 awesome James Shields stats: Numbers make ace-worthy case for experienced right-hander headed to San Diego", mlb.com, February 9, 2015. 
- Jeffrey Flanagan: "Shields gave Royals what they needed, when they needed it: Right-hander helped change culture on the field and in the clubhouse", mlb.com, February 11, 2015. 
- Bob Nightengale: "James Shields 'just as advertised' for Padres", USA Today Sports, May 14, 2015. 
- Mark Whicker: "Padres' James Shields continues to defy injury odds", USA Today Sports, May 5, 2016.