James Shields' ability to pitch deep into games (if not the whole game) and to make hitters whiff at an impressive rate (90 Ks thus far this season) while maintaining a 2.85 ERA has surprised many, even Tampa natives who have his back.
His 5-4 record is more indicative of his career (he's 61-55 overall), but everything else has been impressive and noteworthy. After a mediocre-to-poor 2010, Shields' resurgence is a good story.
Ironically, as I was writing this, Shields had been pulled from a tight 3-0 game against the Los Angeles Angels with the bases loaded and no outs. This was, of course, after pitching seven scoreless innings with eight strikeouts and only three walks.
Unfortunately for Rays fans, the next pitch, by reliever Cesar Ramos, led to a bases-clearing double; sadly, Shields was charged with the runs, and to make matters worse, the game was tied 3-3.
It happens. Such is the life of the pitcher. You win some, you lose some. You also win a lot or lose a lot, and you'll NEVER make everyone happy.
But regardless of your history, fans, critics and the media will always find room in their hearts to be surprised. What's not guaranteed, however, is how said fans, critics and media will represent you when you are either surprisingly great or surprisingly bad.
Here are seven other examples of AL East pitchers that have managed to surprise us all so far in 2011, for better or worse.