Shields Yet to Find Groove With the White Sox

From 2006 through 2012, when James Shields was with the Rays, he was never really an overly dominant pitcher, posting a 3.89 ERA over 217 career starts with Tampa Bay. A very good pitcher, yes; but not a prototypical ace of the staff.

However, when he moved to the American League Central with the Royals in 2013, Shields took things up a notch, recording an ERA inShields the low three’s each of his two seasons with the Royals. Since then, though, things have gone somewhat downhill for Shields.

After not being exactly what was expected out of him for the Padres last season — he helped, but wasn’t as successful as he had been the previous couple of years — Shields was sent to the White Sox earlier this month. The change has been disastrous to this point.

In Shields’s first start with the White Sox against the Nationals, he gave up a whopping seven earned runs over just two innings pitched. Not exactly the way you want to get off with a new team.

His next start was a tad better, but still disappointing, as Shields gave up six earned runs over five innings pitched. You wouldn’t think that would continue . . . but it did.

Shields’s latest start on Saturday afternoon saw him putting up his worst outing to this point with the Sox. Lasting just 1.2 innings, Shields gave up eight earned runs, and has yet to look comfortable with Chicago, or over his last four starts (including his final one with the Padres) for that matter. In that time, Shields has given up a total of 31 runs in 11.1 innings, giving him an ERA above 23.00 in that time. The James Shields of old would appear to be nowhere in sight.

Although Shields has been good in the past, he obviously isn’t performing the way that has come to be expected over the past few weeks. While the White Sox don’t look to be heading towards any postseason glory, you know the Sox and Shields alike want to see him succeed. Only time will tell if that will happen, but Shields is far too good of a pitcher to be performing this way. Odds are he’ll turn things around soon.

Bartolo Colon Shocks the World With a Home Run

Going into Saturday night, Bartolo Colon was a career .089 hitter with no home runs and just 9 RBI’s in 225 career at-bats. He was by no means a threat at the plate. But Colon did something he’s never done before in the Mets’ game Colonagainst the Padres — something no one really felt he was capable of. Bartolo Colon hit a home run.

As a pitcher, Colon wouldn’t necessarily be expected to be a slugger, as most pitchers aren’t very good hitters. However, Colon has been worst than most over his career, and almost laughable at times in some of his at-bats. But he changed all that (at least until his next game’s set of swings) when he pulled a 365 foot home run just over the wall at Petco Park.

Colon’s home run came off of Padres standout pitcher, James Shields, who has been a solid pitcher over the course of his career, posting an ERA below 4.00 since the 2011 season.

In addition, the homer by Colon made him the fifth oldest pitcher since 1913 to ever hit a home run (Colon is just under three weeks shy of his 43rd birthday), with Jack Quinn (age 46) being the oldest.

Despite being 10 for 129 at the plate as a Met up through his home run on Saturday evening, Colon has been a fairly effective pitcher over his career, and has continued that success into this season. A three-time All-Star and 2005 Cy Young award winner, Colon holds a career ERA just below 4.00 over the course of his 19-season career, but still won’t be viewed as much of an offensive machine despite his display of power.

Even so, picking up the win against the Padres on Saturday night, Bartolo Colon’s career statistics now stand at 221 wins, 2,270 strikeouts, and, most surprisingly, one home run.

Best Landing Spot for MLB’s Top Free Agent Players

The 2014 Major League Baseball season ended nearly a month ago, but the team changing deals that take place every offseason are already taking place. The biggest trade that has happened so far is undoubtedly Jason Heyward going to Free Agentsthe Cardinals in exchange for Shelby Miller, however, there is a good chance that there will be several more before 2015 begins.

As far as free agent signings go, Pablo Sandoval signing to play with the Red Sox was a big time deal, with Hanley Ramirez, Russell Martin and Victor Martinez inking large contracts as well.

But despite that, not too many of the 100+ free agent players have signed yet — just over a dozen are off the market, having signed with a team or retired — but there’s still plenty of time left for a lot of exciting deals to go down. (The trades that could be made are nearly impossible to predict, but every free agent has to find a home somewhere — either with their same team or a new one — so that’s what I’ll be talking about.)

Notable current free agents include Jon Lester, James Shields, and Nelson Cruz, among others, but I’m only going to be discussing the top ranked player available at each position (in my mind), and which team I feel they’d fit the best with.

Keep in mind, these are the teams I feel would be the best fit for each player/team, not necessarily a team that’s interested in them, or subsequently will sign them.

2014 MLB TOP FREE AGENTS

Catcher: A.J. Pierzynski

Team I feel should sign him: Pirates

Losing their catcher from 2014, Russell Martin, to free agency, A.J. Pierzynski would be a decent pickup for the Pirates. Though they have a few options for the catcher position, including former first round draft pick Tony Sanchez, who has been waiting and waiting to take over the spot, Pierzyski could serve at least as the backup. His veteran presence, along with his overall offensive production, would give the Pirates a slightly better lineup in 2015.

Designated Hitter: Nelson Cruz

Team I feel should sign him: Mariners

Although Nelson Cruz has played both outfield and designated hitter over the course of his career, he would best serve as a primary DH, in my mind, going to the Mariners. After falling just short of the playoffs in 2014, adding Cruz to protect Robinson Cano in the lineup would go a long way in making the Mariners contenders in 2015. Given, moves that seem to make sense don’t always work out, but taking a chance on Cruz is more than worth the risk.

First Base: Michael Morse

Team I feel should sign him: Rays

This move would be a better fit for the Rays rather than Michael Morse, however, it could end up benefiting Morse in the long run. Having played numerous positions, Morse could answer a lot of problems for the Rays, even if he serves as a platoon player and part time DH, as Morse’s bat could go a long way in helping the Rays next season. All they need is a little more offensive pop, as their starting pitching is already good. Morse could be a great addition to the Rays.

Second Base: Jed Lowrie

Team I feel should sign him: Marlins

Jed Lowrie didn’t have the best season in 2014, but he’s one of those players that is just good enough to have an impact. Though that impact can vary from game to game, Lowrie has been a good player over his career, and could fill the Marlins’ second base slot. After locking up Giancarlo Stanton to a record deal, and with the young players the Marlins are adding to the roster, Lowrie at second could help the Marlins finally make a push in 2015.

Third Base: Chase Headley

Team I feel should sign him: Giants

With Pablo Sandoval off the market, and the Giants’ backup option for third base, Yasmany Tomas, out of the running as well, Chase Headley is their best free agent option. While he can’t completely replace Sandoval, Headley would fill the spot well. Headley had decent offensive numbers this past season with the Yankees, and he plays a decent hot corner. Everything together, the Giants could solve their problem at third base relatively cheap.

Shortstop: Asdrubal Cabrera

Team I feel should sign him: Yankees

Now that Hanley Ramirez off the market, the best remaining free agent shortstop is Asdrubal Cabrera. Although he played second base for a good part of last season with the Nationals, he’s a natural shortstop and would do a good job of filling the Yankees’ empty spot at short, now that Derek Jeter has retired. Although it wouldn’t be a long term solution for the Yankees, Cabrera taking over the shortstop role would help for the time being.

Left Field: Melky Cabrera

Team I feel should sign him: Athletics

Melky Cabrera had a bounce back season in 2014, and could be a valuable pickup for the Athletics if they decide to snag him. While the Athletics aren’t the favorite to sign Cabrera, and aren’t really in the running at all, after the loss of their previous left fielder, Yoenis Cespedes, to the Red Sox for Jon Lester last year, getting Cabrera would make the A’s a better all around ball club, in my opinion. That is, if he can have a year close to the one he put together in 2014.

Center Field: Colby Rasmus

Team I feel should sign him: Braves

Despite being a solid outfielder, Colby Rasmus heading to the Braves is admittedly a long shot, but I feel he would fit in nicely. With Justin Upton in center field, Rasmus would have to move around in the outfield throughout the season, but he’s a good enough defender with a decent amount of pop in his bat. Rasmus isn’t a player that would completely transform the Braves, but after they missed the playoffs in 2014, he could help them over the hump.

Right Field: Torii Hunter

Team I feel should sign him: Orioles

The Tigers have made it clear that they don’t plan to bring back Torii Hunter to play right field in 2015, and therefore he’ll be on the move this offseason. Although Hunter has been around for years, he’s still a very consistent player, both offensively and in the outfield. With only a year or two left from Hunter, he’ll likely be looking to head to a playoff contender. Thus, I feel Hunter would be a good fit with Orioles (assuming they lose Nick Markakis).

Starting Pitcher: James Shields, Jon Lester and Max Scherzer

Team I feel should sign them: Red Sox (Shields), Cubs (Lester) and Rangers (Scherzer)

With the free agent market overflowing with great starting pitching, it was impossible to narrow the options down to a single top choice. In the end I got it down to three, with James Shields, Max Scherzer and Jon Lester coming out as the best statistical starters available.

For Shields, the Royals would fare well to resign him, but it will likely be another team. In my opinion, the Red Sox would benefit from a signing of Shields as a cheaper version of Jon Lester. As far as Lester is concerned, he is reportedly in talks with a number of teams, including the Cubs, who, with their great, young lineup, would really be an intriguing team with Lester’s addition. Max Scherzer is yet another front of the rotation starter on the market, and if the Rangers are looking to compete again in 2015, signing Scherzer long term would put them into position to do so.

Relief Pitcher: Andrew Miller

Team I feel should sign him: Tigers

Some would place David Robertson ahead of Andrew Miller in terms of value, however, I have to put Miller first. He has turned into one of the most dominant relief pitchers in the game today, and would make any teams’ bullpen immediately stronger. With the Tigers being a solid bullpen short of a World Series Championship caliber team, a reunion with Miller could help them make that type of playoff run in 2015.

So, there are my thoughts on which players are the best remaining free agents at each position, and which team should sign them. Odds are that everything won’t go exactly, if at all, how I feel it should, but this is just the way I see things working out best.

San Francisco Giants Win the 2014 World Series

Heading into game six of the 2014 World Series, I was fairly confident that my prediction of the Giants winning it all in six games was nearly a sure bet. Coming off of a strong, shutout start by Madison Bumgarner in game five to take a 3-2 series lead, I figured the Giants would have the momentum to take the championship in the first game back in Kansas City. But I was wrong — very wrong.

Game six turned out to be a blowout by the Royals, as by the second inning the game was basically over. Jake Peavy, the starting pitcher for the Giants, allowed five hits in the inning, including an RBI-double to Mike Moustakas and an RBI-single to Nori Aoki before he was removed from the game for the recently unhittable Yusmeiro Petit.WSGame6cco20141028%201388

But even Petit isn’t perfect, as he allowed a two-run single to the first batter he faced, Lorenzo Cain, followed by a two-run double to Eric Hosmer and a Billy Butler RBI-double. When the dust finally settled, the Royals had scored seven runs in the inning, and every Royals’ starter, with the exception of Omar Infante (he would get a single in the next inning), had at least one hit.

Royals’ starter, Yordano Ventura, fared much better than the pitchers on the Giants’ side of the game. Going seven innings and giving up only three hits while allowing zero runs to a good Giants’ lineup, Ventura was simply remarkable. Leaving the game with a 9-0 lead over the Royals, it’s evident that the Royals have a potential superstar on their hands for years to come.

Up nine runs going into the bottom of the seventh inning, Mike Moustakas took the score to an even 10-0, blasting a solo shot to right field. Coming off of Giants’ reliever, Hunter Strickland — the sixth home run allowed by Strickland in the postseason, a playoff record — Moustakas provided the first home run of the series since game two of the Fall Classic, and would be the final run scored of the game, which became the fifth game out of the series decided by five or more runs.

Taking game six with ease, the Royals forced a World Series game seven for the first time since 2011 — just the 37th World Series game seven in history. With the home team having won the Fall Classic in the past nine game sevens dating back to 1982, including the Royals’ last World Series win in 1985, you had to wonder if history would come through for the Royals or if the Giants terrific elimination game record would prevail.

With game seven of the World Series being a win or go home game for both teams, both starting pitchers — Tim Hudson for the Giants and Jeremy Guthrie for the Royals, who was fantastic in his last outing — were subsequently on very short leashes. (Meaning, should they struggle early they wouldn’t be allowed to continue for very long.) However, both looked fairly sharp to begin the game, posting a scoreless first inning.Bumgarner

But the second inning brought problems for both pitchers. Guthrie gave up a couple of runs via two sacrifice flies that scored the given runner from third, but, surprisingly, he was allowed to continue. Hudson, though, after allowing a couple runs of his own, was replaced after just 1.2 innings pitched — the shortest game seven outing of a World Series game since 1960.

Guthrie pitched a good third inning but allowed a leadoff single to Pablo Sandoval in the fourth (Sandoval went 3-3 on the night, bringing his hit total for this World Series up to a staggering 12), followed by a Hunter Pence single and a flyout that allowed Sandoval to advance to third. Showing signs of struggle, Guthrie was quickly replaced by Kelvin Herrera who immediately gave up a single to Michael Morse, scoring Sandoval from third, and giving the Giants a 3-2 lead. Neither team would find a way to put anything together after that.

On just two days rest, Madison Bumgarner, who threw a complete game shutout in game five, came on in the bottom of the fifth — his first relief appearance since the 2010 National League Championship Series. It was originally thought that if Bumgarner was brought on in relief, it would be for a couple of innings. But Bumgarner was so dominant that he remained in through the final out of the game, surpassing the old MLB postseason record of 48.2 innings pitched and lowering his World Series career ERA down to a measly 0.25.

While the Royals threw out their heart of the order in the bottom of the ninth, with Alex Gordon technically singling but winding up at third on a couple of outfield bobbling errors, they didn’t have a comeback in them. Salvador Perez, although he put up a battle against Bumgarner, stranded Gordon at third, popping out to third baseman Pablo Sandoval, and securing the Giants the 2014 World Series Championship.

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The third World Series title for the San Francisco Giants in the past five year, and their eighth overall in franchise history, the Giants were fairly impressive over the course of the seven games it took to decide a winner, despite outscoring the Royals overall just 30-27. But they would be nowhere without their dominant lefty, Madison Bumgarner, who received the Most Valuable Player award for his dominant pitching during the Fall Classic.

With game seven now decided, thus concludes another exciting Major League Baseball season. But hang in there. There are only 158 days until Opening Day 2015.