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Key Stats: Let’s throw out the numbers from 2009. It is Christmas after all. James Shields just turned 28 years old and was coming off of back to back seasons in 2007 and 2008 with a WHIP of better than 1.15 and over 200 innings. The age, ability and durability are a winning recipe for fantasy owners. Last year Shields was ranked 92nd on this site and with the durability and age still on his side, why not keep him ranked where he is?

Skeptics Say: Last season did happen. Shields walk rate and line drive rate were up and as a result so was his WHIP. It wasn’t as if his control was awful, but it was bad relative to what we’re used to seeing from Shields.

Peer Comparison: Justin Verlander had a bad 2008 season. His ERA was dangerously close to 5, he lost 6 more games than he won, and his strikeout per 9 inning rate was about 7. Part of the reason for his struggles was that his velocity was down about 2 MPH on average from the previous season. I tried to guess that there was something wrong with Verlander and wrote him off completely for 2009. At age 26, Verlander enjoyed the finest season of his career last season and finished third in Cy Young voting. Oops.

Unlike Verlander, Shields didn’t have a drop off in velocity last year. The reason for his struggles is a lot harder to find, and for that reason a safe bet is a return to his 2008 level of play. Best of all, looking at where he’s going in mock drafts, that value is coming at a discounted rate.

Team Outlook: Evan Longoria will be an excellent source of run support for Shields next season and will be a continued positive influence on Shields ability to get hard outs. Longoria is one of the better fielding third baseman in the league and his contributions in that part of his game go unnoticed but shouldn’t. Look for more of the same from Longoria the fielder in 2010 and maybe an improved hitter.

What They’re Saying: CBS Sportsline: #31 Starting Pitcher; ESPN.com: #139 Overall; Yahoo: #29 Starting Pitcher and #116 Overall; Mock Draft Central ADP: #123 Overall; Couch Managers: #170 Overall ; FB 365: #29 Starting Pitcher

Projection: Merry Christmas – only 100 shopping days until the baseball season begins!
15 wins 3.79 ERA 1.18 WHIP 165K in 210 innings

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