Coming into this season, a matchup between James Shields and Scott Baker would have had most baseball fans running for the hills. Both pitchers were coming off disappointing 2010 season, in which they allowed a combined 57 homeruns and posted ERAs at or above 4.50. If last season's results were all we had, Rays and Twins fans would be getting ready for another Fourth of July fireworks show tonight.
Oh, how times change. James Shields has pitched a career-high six complete games this season, leading the Rays' pitching staff with 128 innings pitched and a 2.45 ERA. He's second on the team in Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP), trailing only David Price (2.73 FIP) with his superb 3.08 FIP. And across the field, Scott Baker is on pace for a career year, posting a career-high strikeout rate (8.6 K/9) and career-low 3.15 ERA / 3.45 FIP.
Good luck trying to predict baseball, eh? While there were reasons before the season began to suspect Shields and Baker would be better than last season, no one could have predicted that both pitchers would bounce back to have career years. This is one of the great things about baseball -- you can be up on sabermetrics and know as much as possible, yet still be surprised on a yearly (and daily) basis.
Matchup: James Shields vs. Scott Baker
When: 8:05pm, Target Field
TV & Radio: Sun Sports, WDAE 620