James Shields was traded from the San Diego Padres to the Chicago White Sox on Saturday. The move ended his competitive ties with the Padres less than halfway through the four-year contract he signed before the 2015 season.
Although Shields consumed innings the past season and a half, as he did earlier in his career, his effectiveness with his changeup has waned, and he has been hurt by home runs more than he was earlier in his career.
In his time with the Padres, Shields continued his 200-inning streak. He is the only pitcher who has exceeded 200 in each of the past nine seasons, dating to his time with the Tampa Bay Rays and Kansas City Royals.
Shields has thrown 22 complete games, which ties Justin Verlander for sixth in baseball in the time Shields has been in the major leagues.
However, most of Shields’ stats with the Padres are worse than those from the first nine years of his career. His ERA+, which adjusts for ballpark, was 111 through the end of 2014 (anything greater than 100 is above average). With the Padres, however, his ERA+ is 93. His ERA, WHIP and opponent batting average this season are his worst since the 2010 season. His strikeout-to-walk ratio of 2.1 is the worst of his career.
Changeup no longer elite
One of Shields’ strengths through 2014 was his changeup. As late as 2014, he ranked fifth in the majors in strikeouts with the pitch, with 67. He was eighth last season, with 64.
This season, among pitchers who have faced at least 50 batters, Shields ranks right around the middle in strikeout percentage and total strikeouts on changeups. He ranks fourth-worst in batting average allowed (.277) and seventh-worst in OPS (.720) against the pitch.
A decline in the changeup isn’t all. Shields' average fastball velocity this season is 90.2 mph, which would be a career low if it holds through the season. Last year, his average fastball velocity was 91.1, more than a mile per hour slower than his average in his two seasons with the Royals.
As this article notes, Shields allowed home runs on 17.6 percent of fly balls last season -- pitching at relatively pitcher-friendly Petco Park. That number is 14.8 percent this season. It was below 10 percent in each of his seasons with the Royals.
About $58 million remains on Shields' contract. Reportedly, the Padres are expected to eat about half of the remaining money.