I don’t remember the last time a big-ticket pitcher was booed off the mound in his home debut (not that I’ve done any research to that end), but that’s what greeted James Shields on Wednesday night in Chicago. I don’t quite find the pleasure or purpose in booing poor performance, but Shields sure didn’t leave those who are so inclined any other choice.
Two-plus innings, eight hits, seven runs (all earned), two walks, two strikeouts, three home runs and one wild pitch.
It was a long night for Shields made even longer thanks to a bevy of lengthy at-bats. Nine of the 16 hitters he faced saw at least three balls. That led to the rapid ascension of Shields’ pitch count.
He threw 32 pitches in the first inning, 47 in the second and finally five more to Anthony Rendon before he singled to open the third.
Eighty-four pitches. That’s the second-most pitches ever needed to record no more than six outs. And when I say “ever,” I mean “since no later than 1947, when pitch count data became the norm via Baseball-Reference’s Play Index tool.”
Shields actually joins three other starters who spent 84 pitches to get six outs. Russ Ortiz in 1999, Steve Parris in 2000 and Chris Young in 2007 all accomplished as little with as much. The “record” belongs to 23-year-old Matt Moore, who dialed up 86 pitches in his six-out stint in 2013.
Everyone knows this marriage between Shields and the Southsiders isn’t always going to be a smooth one. Since the start of 2015, Shields has made the majority of his starts in some cavernous National League venues, including Petco Park, Dodger Stadium and AT&T Park, and he allowed 42 home runs in 269.2 innings during that time. Bartolo Colon took him yard.
Now he moves to one of the game’s most homer-friendly pads. Including Wednesday’s thrashing, Shields has given up 12 homers in 74 career innings at U.S. Cellular Field. Rough outings are going to be on the menu. But the White Sox will deal with that as long as Shields eats up innings, preferably more than two per night. If there’s a silver lining to this for White Sox fans, it’s that they have probably seen the worst Shields has to offer.
Set your countdown clocks. As of this writing, we are approximately 7 days, 21 hours and 4 minutes away from Stephen Strasburg’s MLB launch.
But with Strasburg and the Los Angeles Lakers, I figured I would be left screwed in any possible sports-fan scenario and now I have to deal with it.
I’ve been eagerly awaiting Strasburg’s immanent MLB arrival for a few weeks now, knowing that it could interfere with my schedule. It’s not a busy schedule, but I do have plans, you know?
First, he was going to arrive on June 4. That would be OK with me. I am going to Los Angeles Dodgers games on June 1 and June 3, so I would be clear there. But Strasburg was given another start at Triple-A and his ETA was pushed back to the Nationals’ June 8-10 series versus Pittsburgh.
Until last week, the only land mine was June 9, as I have tickets to another Dodgers game (Hey, if you could get seats with a view like this for $17 bucks per, you’d go to a lot of games too! I hate the Dodgers, but cheap baseball is always fun).
Then, on Saturday, the Los Angeles Lakers had to go and make me so happy. And and now so very anxious.
Since Game 1 of the NBA Finals is Thursday, I understood the possibility that Game 3 may coincide with Strasburg’s debut. I assumed that the NBA would use every Sunday possible to air its ultimate showcase, but I hoped against hope that the slate of games wouldn’t call for a stupid break of two full days between games 1 and 2. My prayers went unanswered.
Game 2 is Sunday and Game 3 is Tuesday, June 8. Of course.
I want to write a running blog for both events, but this conflict may cause me to meld the two together into one post. So, for once in my life, I hope for a fast baseball game next Tuesday. The Nationals and Pirates will begin around 4:07 p.m. West Coast time. The Lakers and Celtics will tip about two hours later. If Strasburg can work a quick six innings, I might be able to catch all of his start AND all of the NBA’s most frequent finals matchup.
This will be a non-issue if the man they call Jesus gets shelled and lasts about 2.2 innings. But against the Pirates at home, that seems unlikely.
I’m sure this comes off as just whining. That’s exactly what it is. I want to see both of next Tuesday’s spectacles in their entirety. I wanna, I wanna, I wanna!!!!
It’s been nice to see live baseball every morning at 10 a.m. on MLB Network. It’ll be even better three weeks from now, but I’ll take what’s available right now.
Today, Stephen Strasburg’s spring training debut was on the menu. Knowing that nothing substantial would probably happen, I thought I must tune in just in case something like a Tony Saunders scenario were to occur.
Strasburg threw nothing but fastballs in a quick first inning. He overthrew the first couple outside to Austin Jackson, a possible sign of nerves, but who knows. He then got Jackson to ground out on a 2-0 low fastball. Strasburg fell behind Clete Thomas 2-0 as well, including one fastball that I think landed about 10 feet short of home.
OK, so he is nervous. Whatever. That’s natural.
But Thomas grounded out on another low 2-0 fastball. These first two at-bats caused Nats color analyst Rob Dibble to say something to the extent of “When you’ve got the stuff that Stephen Strasburg has, you can fall behind major league hitters and still get them to ground out.”
Of course, being a major league hitter should mean that you have major league experience, of which Jackson has none. Thomas has less than 400 ABs in his two-year career. So let’s pull back the praise just a bit, Rob. Jackson struck out against non-roster invitee Miguel Batista in the third inning. Apparently he has the stuff to get major leaguers who are not major leaguers out, too. Sign him up!
Next into the box, Magglio Ordonez grounded out on the first pitch — another low fastball — to close the Strasburg’s first.
Seven pitches, three groundouts. All fastballs. At this pace, he could have thrown seven innings today.