James Shields has come to be known by the moniker “Big Game James.” A take on the nickname that was originally bestowed upon James Worthy, Shields has become known for his appearances in critical situations, not only for the Kansas City Royals over the past two years, but for the Tampa Bay Rays before that. In fact, that reputation was a large part of why the Royals acquired him from the Rays, to give their rotation a veteran presence who had been through the playoff wars before.
Worthy earned his nickname through his ability to raise his performance in the playoffs, as he increased his scoring by 3.5 points per game, while seeing an increase in rebounds and assists. Although he was overshadowed by Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Worthy was a vital cog in the Lakers playoff dynasty. Shields, however, has not had the same success in the postseason.
Overall, in his playoff career, James Shields has struggled when the lights have gotten brighter and the calender has turned to October. In his nine playoff starts, spanning eight difference series, Shields has produced a 3-4 record with a 5.19 ERA and a 1.470 WHiP. Even though he has a 3.08 K/9 rate, that mark is still lower than the 7.7 K/9 rate he has put up through his career in the regular season.
Those struggles have continued this postseason. Although the Royals have won all three games that Shields has started, it has not necessarily been due to his performance. In the 2014 postseason, Shields does have a victory, but has also posted a 5.63 ERA and a 1.688 WHiP. Even in his quality start this postseason, Shields was shaky at best, allowing nine baserunners with both runs scoring on solo home runs. If not for the defense, and Lorenzo Cain essentially being Superman in center, his outing may have been much worse.
These outings are not likely to change James Shields’ role in the rotation. He is a veteran presence, and unlike the other starters, Shields has been through the playoffs before. However, he has not been the big game performer he has been made out to be.
James Shields is still the ace of the Royals staff. He just has not performed like one in the playoffs.