Already leading the majors in hits allowed with 135, James Shields gave up 11 more Sunday in the Rays’ 7-3 loss to the Red Sox, making this four straight starts in which he’s allowed at least 10.
Shields is the first pitcher since the Cardinals’ Joel Pineiro in 2008 to surrender at least 10 hits in four consecutive outings. The Rays’ Albie Lopez was the last pitcher to do it more than four starts in a row. He did it in six straight starts in 2001, losing all of them and racking up a 9.09 ERA in the process. Atlanta’s Greg Maddux actually did it five times in a row in 1999, going 2-3 with a 5.93 ERA during that span.
Shields was one of the AL’s best pitchers last year, going 16-12 with a 2.82 ERA in 249 1/3 innings. However, his 2012 is shaping up a lot more like his 2010, when he managed to give up 246 hits in 203 1/3 innings and finished 13-15 with a 5.18 ERA. The Rays would have gotten a top-notch return had they opted to move him last winter; the Reds were interested and could have parted with the same kind of package they gave up for Mat Latos (Yasmani Grandal, Yonder Alonso, Edinson Volquez and Brad Boxberger). The Rays, though, weren’t trading him then and probably aren’t going to sell low on him now.
It’s always a bit deceiving to see offseason workout photos of players who are said to be getting into great shape because guys in those pics are wearing compression shirts and crap and we’re used to seeing them in baseball uniforms. I remember pics of Miguel Cabrera and David Ortiz in the offseason looking svelte, only to see them in uniform come spring as their familiar beefy selves. Uniforms are often loose and billowy and the players wear a couple of layers when they’re suited up, so at least visually speaking it’s better to compare apples to apples.