There are a few ways to judge a pitcher’s legacy. The best is to go off gut feeling and scattershot memories … nah, I’m playing. No matter how you slice it, though, James Shields is one of the finest tossers in franchise history and you had better believe he stacks up well through the statistical slaughterhouse sitting beyond the jump.
Using Baseball-Reference’s Play Index and setting a few modest playing time limits (at least 200 innings pitched and more than half of the innings coming as a starter), Shields has the second best average game score (just behind David Price and tied with Matt Garza and Scott Kazmir); the second best quality start percentage (again just behind Price); the second best Win Probability Added (this time behind Kazmir); the second best B-Ref version of Wins Above Replacement Player (again, behind Kazmir); and the best FanGraphs version of WAR.
If that’s not enough, then Shields also has the best strikeout-to-walk ratio (more than a full strikeout per walk higher than Andy Sonnanstine); the fourth best strikeouts per nine innings pitched ratio (behind Kazmir, Tony Saunders, and David Price); and the lowest walks per nine innings pitched ratio. As for metrics of run average, Shields has the sixth best ERA+ and third best FIP-.
It isn’t hard to see: Shields is one of the two or three best starting pitchers in franchise history.