With free agency news constantly swirling about, it can be easy to forget about how exciting the core players on any team can be. While many wonder how newcomers will perform in their new uniforms, it’s wise to remember that guys like James Shields and their upcoming performances are the most decisive in determining a team’s future success. It’s guys like Shields that “drive the bus” as the obnoxiously likable (or is it likably obnoxious?) Rex Hudler would say.
The Kansas City Royals‘ No. 1 starter led the American League with his 228.1 innings pitched last year and ranked third in MLB behind only Adam Wainwright and Clayton Kershaw. Fellow former-Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Wade Davis is the only other Royal on the current 40-man roster to have thrown a pitch in the playoffs. Shields is 2-4 in six postseason starts with a 4.98 ERA. In his only World Series appearance, he pitched 5.2 scoreless innings and earned a win. At least a small majority of Royals fans have hope that their team can make a run for the playoffs this year, so that experience could turn out to be absolutely crucial.
Remember, the Royals will still be a big-time underdog to win the division with the Detroit Tigers still looming large as the favorites. That means, in all likelihood, the Royals could technically reach the postseason with a one-game, do-or-die Wild Card appearance. As a fan, I’m totally content with the likes of Jason Vargas and man’s man Jeremy Guthrie in the starting five, but I’d really be stretching for optimism if either one was the starter for the team’s one-and-done playoff game.
I simply think it’s worth remembering that Kansas City has a real-deal ace, and his playoff experience may come into play as soon as this October.