Kansas City Royals pitcher James Shields collected career strikeout No. 1,500 in Tuesday's 5-1 win over the Colorado Rockies. Per MLB Stat of the Day, Shields is one of 18 active players to accomplish the feat, and he's joined by Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Bronson Arroyo, who also reached the milestone Tuesday night.
Facing an offense that still leads the majors in batting average (.296), on-base percentage (.344) and slugging percentage (.494) as of Thursday, Shields limited the damage to one run on five hits over seven innings. He struck out eight and walked none, with the milestone K coming in the sixth inning against Troy Tulowitzki, the early favorite for National League MVP honors.
Tulowitzki's whiff was sandwiched between strikeouts by Corey Dickerson and Carlos Gonzalez, as Shields somehow struck out the side against the heart of a vicious lineup.
The 32-year-old right-hander has never been one of baseball's dominant punchout artists, as his career-high mark of 8.8 strikeouts per nine innings (K/9)—achieved with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2012—was still rather ordinary by typical ace standards.
Per Baseball-Reference, Shields has never finished top-10 in the majors in K/9, but he has twice (2011 and 2012) finished top-five in total strikeouts. Durability is his secret to piling up all those Ks, with the big right-hander starting a minimum of 33 games in each of the last five seasons.
At 32 years old and only halfway there, Shields is highly unlikely to reach the vaunted 3,000-strikeout milestone, despite his reputation for durability and consistency. While he may one day be banished to the Hall of Very Good, Shields has provided his teams with elite-pitcher value, thanks to his ability to stay on the field.
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