Sarah's Take: Jeff Shaw
Jeff Shaw was a reliable closer for the Los Angeles Dodgers again in 2000. For the first time in his career, Shaw had a shoulder problem that finally put him on the disabled list. Though he struggled while attempting to pitch through the pain, he was brilliant after coming off the disabled list in July. During his struggles many fans criticized Shaw and believed the Dodgers should trade him, but again patience proves to be a virtue even in baseball.
Jeff Shaw is not the typical closer who uses a blazing fastball. No pitcher is better prepared for a game than Shaw. He spends hours studying scouting reports to learn hitters’ tendencies. He uses a low-90 mile-per-hour fastball as his primary pitch. Against right-handed hitters he uses a slider that goes away from the hitter, and against lefties he uses a split-finger fastball that runs in toward the batter. Unlike most closers, Shaw does not strikeout many batters, so he relies on ground balls to get outs. With excellent control he does not issue many walks, so hitters must get hits to get on base. Most of his career he was an ordinary reliever. Since 1997 he has been closing and has saved 151 games.
Shaw began the 2000 campaign shakily and got worse until he went on the disabled list in June. The first week of the regular season he blew a save opportunity. In April he appeared in eight games with a win, a loss, and a 3.52 ERA. He was horrible in May and June with ERAs of 10.38 and 8.53. His fastball lost some speed enabling the hitters to make more solid contact with the ball. He lost his role as the closer. Shaw experienced shoulder weakness and elbow tendinitis landing him on the disabled list on June 28. Before the all-star break and the stint on the disabled list, he had two wins, four losses, twelve saves, and an 8.00 ERA.
After coming off the disabled list on July 13, Shaw was remarkable. He quickly reclaimed the closer role. His fastball regained its velocity, and for the first time in years he pitched without pain. After his stint on the disabled list and the all-star break he had one win, no losses, fifteen saves, and a 0.87 ERA.
When Shaw was struggling, many fans in Los Angeles wanted to trade him for another closer. The fans do not understand finding an effective closer is difficult. After the Dodger medical staff solved his arm problems, Shaw was the best closer in the National League. His overall record of three wins, four losses, 27 saves, and a 4.24 ERA is completely satisfactory. Shaw has done well for the Dodger organization, and he will do well in 2001 for the Dodgers barring injury.