*Jack Bauer voice* The following takes place between 9:20 PM and 2:50 AM.
Somehow I was roped into a massive Twitter argument last night that gave me some pretty creepy nightmares. And with this being an Angels fan site and all, my opinion probably won’t be a popular one around these parts. For the full transcription, check out the debate between @EnriquePollazzo and @MnkysThrwngDrts (that’s me!) at the aforementioned times. The argument basically boils down to Scot Shields and my distaste for teams signing veteran relievers to multi-year deals which I’ve previously discussed here.
Should the Angels have given Shields his 3-year, $14.6 million deal in 2008? Nope. It’s easy to say that in retrospect but the signs were already on the wall. Shields was fantastic for the Angels from 2002 to 2007 throwing 559.0 innings (14 starts) of 3.01 ERA for an ERA+ of 148. Sports Illustrated even named him the “set-up man of the decade” or some such made up thing.
Shields would have received a similar deal elsewhere with the potential to close but decided to stick with his original team. I respect that. It doesn’t, however, mean the Angels should have given him that contract. Even though the main injury in his career was a leg issue, he was still experiencing arm pain at the end as well. Even the rubber-armed have their limits.
Shields, at 32-years-old, was still effective in 2008. Over 63.1 innings, he had a 2.70 ERA and a 9.09 K/9 rate but was helped out by his defense and ballpark if you believe his 3.81 FIP (fielding independent pitching). After 2008, he crumbled. Shields managed 17.2 innings in 2009 and 46.0 in 2010 with ERAs ballooning to 6.62 and 5.28 respectively. A lot of that could be attributed to his control abandoning him as his walk rates were career highs 6.62 BB/9 in 2009 and 5.28 in 2010. Injuries also played a role.
Could this have been predicted after the 2007 season? Maybe. I wouldn’t have projected such a sharp decline into injury and retirement. Was there undeniable risk signing a 32-year-old relief pitcher to a multi-year after his innings fell every season from 2003 (105.1, yikes!) to 2007 (77.0)? You betcha. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez caught criticism for letting Jonny Venters throw 88.0 innings in 2011 as a 26-year-old.
The other point my debate partner brought up is (sorry) laughable. He believes Shields should have been rewarded with that contract after being underpaid during his control years. That is a poor business model. The Angels aren’t a small market team that can’t afford to make any mistakes. However, it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try to avoid making poor decisions.
Shields was wildly underpaid during his control years like most other above average players because that’s what the owners, commissioner and MLBPA want. That’s the system and it’s getting even worse under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
The Angels, like ALL other teams, could have invested the veteran reliever money into the draft or international signings and promoted from within. Relief pitchers have to be born somewhere, right?
Attack me in the comments or on Twitter, I’m willing to listen.