The world is made up of diametric opposites that balance out in the wash. Ying v. Yang; Heaven v. Hell; Liberal v. Conservative.. Baseball, pitching in particular, is no different. For every Texas-bred fire balling strikeout-getting thrower, there must be a crafty trickster who gets by on guile & deception. Clemens needs Maddux. One represents the full-blown male id, fueled with testosterone & whiskey, destruction by alpha-fastball, what we all want to be. The other creates his own destiny through his intelligence & wits, like Fresh, a super ego of slop with a lunchbox full of angles that may not be able to run fast, but man, he gets the job done, what we all want to be. These archetypal pitchers seem to arrive fully formed from out of the cornfield, getting outs & fans from the get-go.. But a true ace generally toils in a mound version of limbo, that grey area where they reside for longer than most think, coldly mixing the strikeouts with the control to make a concoction called..um.. batter death?.
Virtually all of the best pitchers on each individual team did not arrive as an ace, the most obvious exception to me being C.C. pick up that guitar & talk to me & probably Roll Peavy. Think of the best around: Johan? um... Rule 5 to the Gardy's pen... Halladay? Took him 3 years in the majors & a trip to A-ball to figure it out.
Jamie Shields is becoming the Grey, the ego, making sense of the two & synthesizing it into something new. And better... And the best part of it is he has one perfect example of the "heralded fire baller" on his own team! And he even has a New York connection for added hyperbole! While Zep struggles with his 6 IP / 4 HA / 5 BB / 7 K / 110 PC standards, Jamie keeps terminating jerks. When the topic came up over on John Sickels' minor league site about how the Devil Rays might look in 2008, I was surprised at just how maligned Jamie is amongst the technocrats. Devil Rays fans know, but I think maybe the rest of baseball has yet to come up to speed. Let's dispel something right of the bat. Jamie Shields has always been good. Don't believe me? Here are his minor league numbers. Everything you see there is what you are seeing today. Hit rate a little high? Check. Doesn't walk anyone? Check. Gives a few too many HR's? Yep. But does he miss bats? Uh-huh. Guy throws a right-handed screwball, for Christ's sake! How many of those do you see? I know it's technically a change-up, but the thing is 10 MPH slower than the heat (coming at 91-94 MPH, BTW) & tails down & away from lefties (check the cool reverse splits!) Ask Fernando. He'll tell you, "¡Eso es un screwball, hombre!".. Plus, he looks just like everyone's favorite school-teacher lovin' drunk! I'm guessing this continues as long as Jamie can lift his right arm.... He pitches tomorrow v Bedard & the O's if you want to see what I'm talking about.
I've got a good feeling about this one. Granted, I've been wrong before.....