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What happened to James Shields?

Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher James Shields reacts

Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher James Shields reacts in the dugout after being removed in the fifth inning of Game 2 of the ALDS against the Texas Rangers. Texas won, 6-0. (Oct. 7, 2010) Photo Credit: AP

James Shields has always been a pitcher that didn't cost much and helped fantasy teams until he blew up last season. The Rays righthander is coming off an awful season if you look at his ERA of 5.18.

The biggest problem for Shields last season was allowing 34 home runs in 203.1 innings for a HR/9 of 1.50. The year before, Shields had a 4.14 ERA. Is he on the decline? If you look at those numbers, the rush is to say yes, but as Brand Nubian said, "Slow Down."

The peripherals are very encouraging for Shields. He had the best K/9 of his career with an 8.28 and a good BB/9 of 2.26. Shields also had an unlucky Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP) of .354, which is well above his career average of .316.

A Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) ERA of 4.24 was almost a full run below his actual ERA. That’s an indication of bad luck. Even if you're anti-sabermetric, K/BB ratio is something to always look at. Shields had the fourth best K/BB ratio in the American League last season. He has pitched at least 200 innings in four consecutive seasons.

Many will look at his ERA from last season and cross him off their draft list. Don't make that mistake. Shields is an excellent bounce-back candidate and will come at a discount. I'm buying.

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