On the 21st of July, Dave Cameron said the Royals should trade James Shields.
On the 9th of August, Rob Neyer said Jake Odorizzi had pitched slightly better than James Shields.
On the 16th of August, Gabe Kapler said James Shields should be considered in the same class as Max Scherzer and Jon Lester.
I think all three of us had good reasons for writing what we wrote. I agreed with Cameron, and I agreed with me, and I agreed ... well, I didn't agree quite so much with Kapler. But I wasn't sure he was wrong, either. The statistics this season did suggest that Shields wasn't the same pitcher he'd been, and in fact was just the Royals' fourth-best starting starting pitcher. Or rather, had been the Royals' fourth-best starting pitcher.
Of course we hate artificial end-points, but I'll grab the mid-point between our three essays: August 4.
In his seven starts since the 4th of August, James Shields is 4-1 with a 2.16 ERA. In 50 innings, he's got 37 strikeouts and 8 walks, just three homers allowed. In his last three starts, with the Royals in the densest thicket of the postseason push, he's permitted one run.
Should the Royals have traded Shields in July? We'll see.
Has Shields benefitted from the Royals' outstanding defense? For sure.
Does a pitcher with a 4.98 ERA over six postseason starts deserve the nickname "Big Game"? That's a question for the Philosophers.
Can you imagine the Royals in first place right now without him?