Don’t Forget About Ben Sheets

In a market with such injury prone aces as Rich Harden and Erik Bedard available to teams this offseason, it can be easy to forget about one ace who missed all of 2009 on the shelf. That would be Ben Sheets, the former ace of the Milwaukee Brewers, who spent the entire season recovering from an elbow injury suffered at the end of the 2008 season, and whose elbow injury negated a two-year contract he had signed with Texas.

As a fan of the Milwaukee Brewers last season, I really missed Ben Sheets, as the Brewers starting pitching staff combined for a miserable 13.1 runs above replacement. Still, it had been nearly as disappointing watching, year after year, as Sheets missed more and more time due to injury. From 2005-2008, Sheets only averaged 150 innings per season. He missed significant time each season, only making more than 30 starts once, in 2008, before his season-ending injury which caused him to miss all of 2009.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that Sheets doesn’t bring value to a team. He has legitimate ace stuff. He has a career K/BB ratio of 3.85 and a career FIP of 3.56. His fastball and curveball combo is deadly, as both pitches have been worth nearly +.60 runs above average per 100 pitches over his career.

Much like with J.D. Drew, we have an example of a very talented player who just can’t seem to play a full season. Still, Sheets has potential provide value at the level of a John Lackey type pitcher. Since 2002, Sheets has provided 29.8 WAR, or 3.8 per season (excluding 2009). That total WAR mark ties him for 16th of the win value era with Tim Hudson, who has thrown 200 more innings over that time frame. It’s 1.5 more wins than Carlos Zambrano has in 350 fewer innings.

The thing with Sheets is that the best predictor of future injury is past injury. Because of this, it would be irresponsible of any team to expect more than 150 innings out of the former Milwaukee ace. However, unless this latest injury took all the life out of Sheets’s arm, it’s a good bet that they’ll be excellent innings, and I would expect that major league teams understand this. The question is which one is willing to take the biggest chance.




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12 Responses to “Don’t Forget About Ben Sheets”

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  1. neuter_your_dogma says:

    Will he return as a SP in his first year or BP?

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  2. Brendon says:

    I wonder what the contract would look like. Incentive laden, no doubt. But what about base?

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  3. b_rider says:

    Minor quibble: When you compare Sheets’ WAR to Zambrano’s, you ought to include batting value. Sheets has a higher pitching WAR total, but Zambrano is over 7 WAR better than Sheets since 2002 in batting. If Sheets had played in 2009, that number would likely be even more in Zambrano’s favor.

    Of course, if Sheets signs with an AL team, it doesn’t matter. But I don’t think it’s fair to discuss Zambrano’s value without at least accounting for the fact that he’s been one of the best hitting pitchers in the game. He’s like a shortstop who is just average on defense but a good hitter. All in all, that makes for a pretty good player.

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    • neuter_your_dogma says:

      Ben has a better BB/K ratio. Carlos is too much of a free swinger. Ha.

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      • Al Dimond says:

        True that. Pitchers are starting to realize that throwing him anything near the zone is dumb. He swings, hard, at just about everything. He’s fun to watch hit, though. He hits batting-practice shots longer than most of the Cubs’ position players.

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  4. David Foy says:

    As a mets fan my dream off-season would be signing Sheets and Harden. But then considering our luck they’ll both not only get injured (nothing unlucky about that with those two obviously) but both will stink when they actually play.

    But enough Met fan negativity. I think that with the money we could sink into Lackey we could get both Sheets and Harden, with better results. Anyone with more knowledge than me think this is true? How much is being estimated that either guy is going to be able to command?

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  5. Tim K. says:

    Wouldn’t a better title have been “Don’t Sleep On Ben Sheets”?

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  6. Gleb says:

    Santana
    Harden
    Sheets
    Maine
    Pelfrey

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  7. Conballs says:

    August 10th, 2010:

    Pelfrey
    Niese
    Garland
    Figueroa
    Livan

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  8. Sharon LeBlanc says:

    Congrats Ben. Good luck going to the Braves!

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