The only small solace about the James Shields trade from the White Sox’ perspective — Erik Johnson somehow fared worse. He went 0-4 with a 9.15 ERA in his four starts with San Diego, including 32 hits and nine homers over 19⅔ innings.
He only made four starts because he landed on the disabled list with a flexor strain on July 1, and the Padres shut him down at the end of July due to a lack of progress. In this case, waiting it out only delayed the inevitable. The San Diego Union-Tribune reported on Thursday that Johnson underwent Tommy John surgery and will miss all of 2017 as a result.
The velocity and performance problems for Johnson started with the White Sox, but the Union-Tribune previously reported that Johnson’s elbow began acting up on him after his second start with the Padres. That probably isn't enough for the Padres to call shenanigans on the White Sox, and they probably wouldn't even want to if given the chance for threat of reversal. For all of Johnson's problems with the Padres, Shields was historically awful with the White Sox, and for 20 times the cost.
Shields comfortably owns the lowest ERA+ for any White Sox pitcher to throw 100 innings in a season...
- James Shields, 59 ERA+ over 114.1 IP in 2016
- Shovel Hodge, 64 ERA+ over 142.2 IP in 1921
- Jason Bere, 63 ERA+ over 137.2 IP in 1995
... and he's only the third pitcher with a sub-60 ERA+ over 100 innings over the last 40 years. He also had the most homer-prone White Sox season by a large margin, at least in terms of home runs per nine innings:
- James Shields, 2.44 HR/9 over 114.1 IP in 2016
- Philip Humber, 2.03 HR/9 over 102 IP in 2012
- Scott Eyre, 2.02 HR/9 over 107 IP in 1998
Johnson would have blown away these records if given the chance, but he never would have received one because he wouldn't have the credibility or contractual pressure to remain in an MLB rotation. Shields does, which is why the Padres are happy with the salary relief, even if they're short on arms. There's value in not having a guy pitch sometimes, and the White Sox will likely apply that same lesson to Shields at some point next season if he isn't able to clean his slate with a fresh offseason and spring training.
Friend of the Podcast assesses the White Sox' crop if prospects participating in instructional league in Arizona along with farm director Nick Capra. The list includes Alec Hansen (who is working fastball/changeup) and Jace Fry (coming back from his second Tommy John surgery).
Jeff Sullivan explains how Marco Estrada worked so well against the Texas Rangers in Toronto's 10-1 season-opening blowout. Part of me wants to post the last frame here, but it would ruin the whole build-up.
There's also this excellent explanation from August Fagerstrom on the way Madison Bumgarner exploited Yoenis Cespedes' weakness against high fastballs. Fagerstrom notes that the Cubs have a similar problem, with makes a Game 3 matchup all the more compelling.
Former Rockies outfielder Ryan Spilborghs wrote a post for MLB Trade Rumors explaining what September roster expansions look like from the players' side. It's well-written, capturing the inherent tension for players not called up (missed money now and later) and veterans already on the roster (rooting for their potential replacements).