James Shields and Swing Mode | The Process Report

James Shields and Swing Mode

In his post-game interview, James Shields spoke about the ability to hitters into “swing mode.”When you do that” meaning throw strikes with his fastball “you get them into swing mode” Shields said. Thanks in part to a 64% strike rate off the fastball today, he was able use his breaking balls and his changeups as knockout punches.

Shields tied a career-high with 12 strikeouts. He threw 109 total pitches with a solid 72% of them going for strikes. A clear indication of “swing mode,” he induced 16 swings and misses. In fact, whiffs represented 15% of his overall pitches thrown and 20% of his strikes.  

In 2011, Shields had done a masterful job of setting hitters up. We’ve talked at length over the past week about this, but his strategy of pitching backwards in the latter portion of games continues to be successful. Today, Shields threw a first-pitch fastball to 11 of the first 12 batters he faced. From the fifth inning on, he threw 11 non-fastballs on the first pitch to his final 18 batters.

Even though Shields was pitching backwards at certain points of the game, his fastball still set-up nine of the 12 strikeouts. With 10 swinging strikeouts overall, seven of them came on a breaking ball or off-speed pitch.  

As hitters adapt to what he is doing, getting them to enter “swing mode” will go a long way in Shields being able to sustain this high-level of performance.

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