Scot Shields officially announced his retirement earlier today, confirming the inevitable after a quiet and ostensibly negotiations-free offseason.
The Angels drafted Shields in the 38th round in 1997. Although he started his minor league career as a reliever, the Angels would shift him to the rotation in 1999 and leave him there until 2002, at which point he would become a permanent part of the big league team. Shields returned to the rotation briefly in 2003, making 13 starts before heading back to the bullpen.
Shields took over the eighth inning role in 2004 after Troy Percival departed for Detroit and Francisco Rodriguez became closer, but the genesis of his dominance came seasons earlier. From 2002 through 2008, Shields finished in the top five on the Angels in WXRL while averaging 89 innings a season and posting an aggregate ERA of 2.98. Shields’ peripherals were decent too, as he averaged nearly a strikeout per inning pitched (8.3 per nine) and held a strikeout-to-walk ratio over 2.5.
The most reliable aspect of Shields’ game was his rubber arm. Over that seven-season span, Shields threw the third most innings by any pitcher with more than three-fourths of his appearances coming as a reliever, behind Braden Looper and Julian Tavarez –both of whom had more 50-plus starts, while Shields had only 14. The apex of Shields’ workload from the pen came in 2004, as he appeared in 70 games and completed more than 105 innings. Since the 1998 expansion, only five other relievers have thrown more innings without a start.
The effects of aging and heavy workloads took their toll over the last two seasons. Shields’ strikeout-to-walk rate dipped to 1.04, his home run rate escalated to one per nine innings (previously he had allowed 0.7 homers per nine during his stretch of excellence) and he even missed time due to injury. Even without a grand finale to Shields’ career, he should head to the next stage of his life with the knowledge that his time in baseball was a resounding success.