Should James Shields Start the Wild Card Game?


As I type this post, the Kansas City Royals are presently losing to the Detriot Tigers by a score of 10-0 in the bottom of the eighth inning. While the Royals are only 1.5 games out of first place, it would seem as though their dreams of capturing the American League Central are likely fading. After all, there is only so much time left in the regular season.

With that in mind, the focus may now be shifting toward the Wild Card berth. The Royals are still in the enviable position of controlling their own fate, as they still hold the advantage over the Seattle Mariners and the free falling Oakland A’s. All the Royals really need to do now is to maintain their position, and they will find themselves int hat one game playoff for the final spot in the postseason.

Of course, a lot can happen with any single game. After all, even truly dreadful teams such as the Texas Rangers of the Colorado Rockies win approximately 40% of their games over the season. On any given day, even the worst pitcher in baseball can win, while the best pitcher loses. How else can one explain a pitcher like Clayton Kershaw losing three games this season, while Kevin Correia and his 5.29 ERA have still managed to get seven wins on the season.

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With the peculiarities of the one game playoff in mind, and how a bad hop could be the difference between a win and a season ending loss, who should the Royals turn to in such a game? Conventional wisdom would say that the game should be turned over to the most experienced pitcher on the staff, James Shields. Based on his track record, and how Shields has performed down the stretch, it would certainly make sense to hand him the ball. After all, since the All-Star Break, Shields has posted a 5-2 record with a 2.37 ERA and a 1.052 WHiP. “Big Game” James has certainly lived up to his end of the bargain.

Yet, as good as Shields has been over the second half, Danny Duffy has been even better. Arguably the best pitcher on the Royals this season, despite what his record would indicate, Duffy has truly stepped his game up after the All-Star Break. Shields numbers, as good as they are, are dwarfed by Duffy’s 1.91 ERA and 1.041 WHiP. Those numbers just continue the dominance that Duffy has displayed this season.

In a hypothetical Wild Card matchup, the Royals may well have a decision to make between the veteran Shields or the young gun in Duffy. Given Duffy’s performance this season, and Shields dominance over the past couple of months, it may be a more difficult call than one would have expected. Would the experience of James Shields, or the overall performance this season of Danny Duffy, win out?

Should the Royals find themselves in that one game Wild Card situation, that may be the choice they need to make. Do they go with the experienced James Shields, or the hot young pitcher in Danny Duffy? Either choice may well open Ned Yost for second guessing, especially if he goes against the safe choice in Shields.

James Shields should get the start for the Royals in the Wild Card game, should the situation arise. However, Danny Duffy deserves to find himself in the conversation as well.