The best AFL pitchers no one knows

It’s true that this is another offensive year in the Fall League. But with high-profile arms like Jered Weaver, Angel Guzman, Adam Miller and Wade Townsend on rosters at the start of the season, it seemed like there would be some outstanding performances by the top pitching prospects in the game.

And, to be fair, guys like Adam Loewen and Glen Perkins have lived up to billing and/or draft status. But perhaps the two best pitchers in the AFL this season are guys you may not have been aware of before this fall.

First is Shane Komine. Known as the "Hawaiian Punchout" to some — and you gotta love a nickname like that — Komine was taken in that famed 2002 draft in the ninth round. With his five scoreless innings today (he hadn’t pitched since Oct. 18 because of some neck stiffness), his ERA dropped to 0.96. In 18 1/3 innings, he’s struck out 14 and walked two. Considering he tossed just under 50 innings during the season as he recovered from Tommy John surgery in July 2004, it appears that he’s recaptured the form that put him on the map in the College World Series a few years back.

The other guy is Jamie Shields, another success story — or so it seems — from injury issues. Shields was a pretty hot commodity in high school, getting attention from plenty of scouts and from colleges. A back problem limited his ability to pitch his senior year, dropping him to the 16th round in 2000. The D-Rays lured him away from college with a big bonus, a move that looked like it was going to backfire when he missed the entire 2002 season. He then spent parts of two seasons in the California League, then parts of two more in Double-A. This past season he was in Montgomery for most of the year, making a brief appearance in Durham. For the season, he went 8-5 with a 2.97 ERA, striking out 110 and walking 34 in 115 1/3 innings. He’s kept it up and then some this fall, leading the league in innings (25) while striking out 25 and walking just two. He’s officially second in the AFL with a 1.80 ERA and recently became the first AFL pitcher this year to go six innings in one outing.

Me thinks the A’s and Rays will have to find room for these pitchers on their respective 40-man rosters.

And now for some league stats updates:

All-time batting average record: .292 (2004)
2005 average: .297 (under .300 for first time)

All-time worst ERA: 5.32 (2004)
2005 ERA: 5.51

All-time homers: 243 (1997)
2005 homers: 147 (on pace for 214)

Note on homers: The record for homers per game is 1.82, set in 2001. This year, balls are going out at the rate of 2.22 per game.

All-time runs per game: 12.07 (2004)
2005 RPG: 12.53

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