James Shields Can’t protect Royals Offense
The Kansas City Royals are wasting James Shields’ starts.
The organization really didn’t see this coming. 2013 was supposed to be different. This was, according to the Royals and their management, the year the Royals would break out of their long, awful slump of seasons without an appearance in the playoffs.
That slump stretches back all the way to 1985, making the Royals’ streak of futility the longest currently in MLB, so you can’t really blame them for trying, or for perhaps even reaching in an effort to make something work.
Or maybe you can.
Before the start of the 2013 season, the Royals decided to take a gamble – the kind of gamble that they thought would result in postseason ticket sales for the first time in 28 years. The Royals dangled top prospects Wil Myers (#4 prospect in MLB according to Baseball America) and Jake Odorizzi (#92), as well as prospect Patrick Leonard, to acquire starting pitchers James Shields, 31, and Wade Davis, 27, from the Tampa Bay Rays.
The trade was met with mixed reactions among experts of the game. Some commended the Royals for their bravery, for finally taking a chance. Others scoffed, claiming that the organization gave away too much for a pitcher with only two years remaining on his contract. They felt the Royals pulled the trigger too soon.
Regardless, Kansas City, for the first time in years, would have an ace leading their revamped rotation. Nobody disputed this. Coming into 2013, Shields had been 31-22 with a 3.15 ERA over his previous two seasons. He had also proven his durability, last failing to throw 200 innings in 2006, his rookie season.
There was excitement in Kansas City. For the first time in years, the fanbase had reason to believe, to hope, to think that the organization was finally headed in the right direction.
Well, the Kansas City Royals are now 22-30, and they’ve lost 20 of their last 25 games. They have 10 consecutive losses at home, tying the franchise’s all-time worst mark, which occurred just one year ago, in 2012.
The prospects that upper management promised would lift the organization out of despair are floundering. Mike Moustakas is hitting .187 and Eric Hosmer is slugging .331. And established hitters such as Billy Butler and Jeff Francouer are well below their career averages. The team’s OPS (on-base plus slugging) is 14th out of 15 in the American League. Their slugging is dead last.
Meanwhile, General Manager Dayton Moore’s “process” for the organization is in year seven with no positive results. The Royals have zero playoff appearances or seasons with a record over .500 during his tenure with the Royals. Simply put, there is no GM in MLB that is longer tenured with such little success.
Manager Ned Yost also appears to be working on borrowed time.
About the only person free of blame in this mess is Shields, who has pitched better than his record (2-6) would indicate. He sports a 2.96 ERA with his new club, but has only one win in his last nine outings. And the Royals are 0-5 in his last five starts, despite Shields’ ERA of 2.92 over that stretch. Meanwhile, the average number of runs the Royals have scored during Shields’ five starts is 1.60.
The Royals aren’t even winning the games they’re supposed to win.
The losing began for the Royals and Shields on May 6, when Shields was pulled from a game following eight shutout innings, despite only throwing 102 pitches — a number he has exceeded in every start since. At the time, the team was 17-10 and looking strong.
James Shields has been excellent with the Royals. His individual performance has been good enough to net the wins the Royals thought they could bring him, to give the Royals everything they wanted, but the team’s offense — it’s youth — has failed to live up to its end of the deal.
Shields pitches today, and it’s likely he feels he has no room for error. The offense hasn’t been backing him.