Tag Archives: Ben Sheets

What happened to Ben Sheets?

During the past week and a half we’ve spent a lot of time discussing various pitchers connected to the Yankees. I wanted to switch gears for a change of pace and take a look at a pitcher who (a) I’ve been advocating for for quite some time; (b) I wanted the Yankees to sign last offseason; and (c) they will have absolutely zero interest in because after a fairly middling comeback with the A’s he blew his elbow out yet again, sidelining him for the remainder of 2010, likely most of 2011 and possibly ending his career: Yankeeist favorite Ben Sheets.

It may seem like an eternity ago, but once upon a time Sheets was one of the best pitchers in baseball. From his debut in 2001 through his last good season in 2008, he accumulated 31.0 fWAR, fourth-most among all pitchers in the National League, behind only Roy Oswalt, Randy Johnson and Brandon Webb. If you remove his rookie season, and look at 2002-2008, he was the arguably the third-best pitcher in the NL.

In 2004, the best season of his career, he put up a ridiculous 2.70 ERA/2.65 FIP/2.70 xFIP in 237.0 innings, worth a jaw-dropping 8.0 fWAR, second only to the Big Unit’s utterly insane 9.9. Sheets struck out the world that season, posting a 10.03 K/9, walked almost no one (1.22 BB/9, second-lowest that season after David Wells) and basically just didn’t let runners get on base (.231 BAA, microscopic 0.98 WHIP). If Randy Johnson didn’t exist, Sheets would’ve won the Cy Young hands-down that year.

Sheets lost some velocity between 2008 and 2010 (avg. fastball 92.6mph to 91.2mph) but not a ton, though his fastball was more hittable than it had ever been before (-13.0 runs above average). Hitters swung at more pitches out of the zone from Sheets than they ever had before (29.5%), laid off more pitches in the zone than they ever had before (60.4%) and overall swung at fewer total pitches than they ever had before (44.4%). Additionally, they made more contact on out-of-zone pitches than ever before, made more contact on in-the-zone pitches than they ever had before (a crazy-high 92.2%) and in turn made more overall contact than at any previous time in his career. Sheets also located less than half his pitches in the zone for the first time in his career and had the lowest swinging strike percentage of his career (6.8%).

So yeah, Sheets’ 2010 was pretty bad; frankly I’m amazed it wasn’t even more of an unmitigated disaster, as he seemed reasonably effective the few times I got to see him pitch, although I suppose you could qualify the elbow injury in the disaster category. I’m sure we’ll see Sheets try and give it a go with another team once he’s done rehabbing his injury — he’s still only 32 — but at this point the best Sheets could probably hope for is a minor league deal with the possibility of making the Majors. Unfortunately, given Sheets’ injury history and the fact that his aborted comeback year saw him more hittable than he’s ever been in his career, I’m not certain it’s in the cards for the former ace.

A's trade for Yankeeist favorite Josh Willingham

Billy Beane and I seem to covet a lot of the same players. First Ben Sheets, then David DeJesus and now Josh Willingham. I first pondered the idea of Willingham back in April when I wasn’t yet convinced that Brett Gardner was going to be the full-time solution in left field.

Admittedly I’ve since become a Gardner believer, but that doesn’t mean I still can’t pine over what might’ve been had the Yankees somehow picked Willingham up.

Here’s what the A’s are getting in Willingham:

That’s a pretty OBP trendline. Since becoming a full-time player in 2006, Willingham’s OBP has gone up (or stayed level) every season, topping out at 2010’s stellar .389, which, had he had enough PAs to qualify, would’ve been the sixth-best mark in the National League. Willingham’s SLG took a hit in 2010, actually falling to a five-year low of .459, but he still managed to put up a career-high .378 wOBA, which of course underscores how highly wOBA values OBP.

Additionally, Willingham’s career-high 14.9% walk rate would’ve been second in the league, and so it’s not terribly surprising that James sees a slight correction due in 2011, with Willingham losing .020 points of OBP as a result of a still-excellent 13.3% BB%. CAIRO sees Willingham as a .359 wOBA hitter in 2011 with a .363 on-base percentage. Given Willingham’s career OBP is .367 I think these forecasts might be a tad pessimistic, although Willingham is on the wrong side of 30.

Interestingly, CAIRO has Willingham worth 3.2 WAR, which would be a career-high in both bWAR and fWAR, although it should be noted that SG purposely doesn’t calculate WAR due to issues with both measuring and projecting defense, so this should probably be taken with a grain of salt.

Even if he isn’t quite a three-win player, Willingham’s still a very nice upgrade for an Oakland team that really struggled to score runs in 2010 — only three everyday players managed OBPs higher than .358. Throw David DeJesus and his 2010 .384 OBP, OBP God Daric Barton and old friend Hideki Matsui into the mix and the Oakland lineup is looking at a pretty nice 2-3-4-5. Additionally, Oakland surrendered Henry Rodriguez and Corey Brown in the deal, neither of whom is considering a top young talent, per Fangraphs.

Perhaps most importantly for readers of this blog, Willingham will be a free agent after this season, and Oakland will almost certainly not be re-signing him. Depending on how Brett Gardner fares in his sophomore season as a full-timer, Willingham could be a potential left field option for the 2012 Yanks — as a player entering his age 33 season, he won’t be able to command a long-term deal, and as a non-elite player shouldn’t be prohibitively expensive.

Yankees beat A's 3-1

The Yankees dispatched the A’s 3-1 last night in a brisk pitcher’s duel, due largely to Javier Vazquez surrendering only one run over seven innings. Vazquez labored a bit, and was also bailed out by a handful of fantastic defensive plays — Alex Rodriguez‘s diving stop and Curtis Granderson‘s and Colin Curtis‘ back-to-back diving catches immediately spring to mind — but you can’t quibble with the results.

The Yankee offense was supplied by a two-out triple by Granderson in the top of the second, scoring would-be All-Star Nick Swisher, followed by another base hit with a runner in scoring position by Francisco Cervelli. Mark Teixeira added to the lead in the sixth with a solo bomb to center field.

For his part I thought Yankeeist favorite Ben Sheets pitched pretty admirably (7 1/3 innings, 3 runs, 4 strikeouts), and was still throwing gas into the eighth inning. John Flaherty and Ken Singleton spent much of the broadcast talking about how all manner of scouts from opposing teams were evaluating Sheets for a potential trade deadline acquisition, and while I know he hasn’t been the lights-out Sheets of old I do think he could strengthen the rotation of a potential playoff team — especially one that scores with far more regularity than the punchless A’s (.316 team wOBA).

As for the aforementioned Swisher, I obviously love what he’s done for the Yankees this season, and certainly wouldn’t be unhappy if he was selected to the All-Star team, but I don’t see how anyone could vote for Swish over Kevin Youkilis. .430 wOBAs don’t exactly grow on trees, and I doubt the Red Sox would be breathing down the Yankees’ necks given their myriad injuries without Youk’s herculean 2010 offensive campaign.

Speaking of the Sox, with 11 players on the disabled list — including their starting second baseman and former MVP, starting catcher, starting left fielder and a starting pitcher who has arguably been one of the ten best pitchers in the American League — the Yankees have to take advantage of this and start putting some serious distance between themselves and Boston.

A look at some of the players the Yankees let go of or passed on last winter, and who they might pursue in the 2010-2011 offseason

While waiting for the Yankee-Twin game to resume last night (which obviously didn’t end up happening) I caught some highlights from the Cardinals game on MLB Network and it reminded me that the Yankees may or may not have been pursuing Matt Holliday this past offseason. This (a) Made me want to find out how Holliday was doing; (b) Check in on how the other free agents/potential trades the Yankees didn’t end up pursuing/guys the Yankees let go of were performing; and (c) See what some of the Yankees’ potential targets this coming offseason are up to (I expect they’ll be targeting starting pitching, left field and designated hitter, given that Nick Johnson is only signed for one year with a mutual option).

Here are the 2010 season statistics for the major names that the Yankees either didn’t re-sign, traded or passed on last offseason. Stats in all of the tables in this blog post are as of today, Wednesday, May 26, and are in descending order by wOBA for hitters and FIP for pitchers. Guys in yellow will be free agents again after the 2010 season.

Looks like a lot of folks were wrong about Vladimir Guerrero being cooked. I don’t recommend envisioning his and Johnny Damon‘s bats in the Yankee lineup right now; it’ll only make you sad. Also, Met fans rejoice — Jason Bay is bringing it despite the lack of power. And the Yanks appear to have made the right call in passing on Hideki Matsui. For comparison’s sake I’ve tossed in Nick the Walk and Brett Gardner. Depending on when Stick returns and if he remembers how to start hitting again, I would imagine those wOBAs will be reversed at the end of the season.

On the pitching side of the ledger, I suppose it’s somewhat unfair to include Roy Halladay on this list, but the Yankees were interested. None of the other guys are setting the world on fire, and though Justin Duchscherer has a pleasant ERA, he’s injured at the moment. There’s no way Ian Kennedy would have a sub-4.00 ERA in the AL East. And though Ben Sheets‘ FIP may look ugly, guess who has a 4.66 FIP? CC Sabathia. I remain curious to see where Sheets’ numbers are at the end of the year and will likely resume the call for the Yanks to sign him if he finishes with reasonable numbers.

The following are players (with their 2010 season stats) that, according to Cot’s, will either be free agents after the 2010 season or have an option (denoted by an asterisk), and may be of interest to the Yankees.

I had no idea that Jayson Werth was absolutely raking right now. Werth figures to be a much-talked about name come this offseason, as the Yankees decide whether to hand out a longer-term deal to Carl Crawford (also performing very well) or a shorter deal at perhaps greater annual value to the older Werth. Either way, I have a feeling one of those two will end up patrolling left field for the Yankees in 2011.

If the Yankees decide to let Nick the Stick walk, there will be no shortage of DH types available — Paul Konerko or Yankeeist favorite Adam Dunn would fit into the Yankee lineup quite nicely. I don’t know how many times I can beat the Big Donkey drum, but how could you not love the idea of Dunn probably clubbing 50 home runs what with getting to play 81 home games at Yankee Stadium, and also drawing his customary 100 walks? Dunn is a sabermetrician’s wet dream, and it would be a joy to see him installed in the Yankees’ patient lineup.

It’s pretty incredible that David Ortiz went from “no way the Red
Sox pick up his $12.5 million option” and possibly getting outright released to dangerous again in a month. It seemed like a no-brainer for the Sox to cut ties with Ortiz at the end of the season — though one wonders whether they’d consider bringing him back at a reduced salary — but if he turns in a .370-plus wOBA, then perhaps Theo Epstein decides to see if Ortiz has one more productive year left in the tank without risking upsetting the big man with a salary reduction.

Boston has historically been very good at knowing when to let its superstars go, although Ortiz may turn out to be a special case. One could probably make an argument for Ortiz being the most important Red Sock of all time — they very likely do not win the World Series in both 2004 and 2007 without his incredible contributions — but then again, Bostonians don’t seem to have quite the same level of irrational attachment to the superstars as Yankee fans do. If Papi continued to falter and ended the year with a .300 wOBA, I have a feeling everyone in Boston would be ready to see him go. If Derek Jeter somehow ended this season with a pitiful .300 wOBA, you’d still have Yankee fans calling for the team to resign Jeter for $20 million a year.

If Ortiz does hit the market, I wonder if the Yankees would take a gamble on the slugger. It would absolutely kill Red Sox fans to see Ortiz in a New York uniform, and Papi could probably still hit 20 out in new Yankee Stadium. Could you imagine the uproar? I actually don’t know if i can envision Ortiz in a Yankee uniform. But if he ends the year raking and Nick the Stick doesn’t come back or returns in July/August and remains relatively ineffective, it’s actually not that farfetched.

Of the potentially interesting free agent pitchers, only Cliff Lee would be worth throwing large sacks of money at. If the Mariners are unable to trade Lee at the deadline, you have to figure the Yankees will be all over the free agent-to-be, especially as they may have up to two free rotation slots depending on whether Andy Pettitte re-ups for another year and if they decide to resign Javier Vazquez. A Sabathia-Lee-A.J. Burnett front three would be rather insane.


I promised Mike the regular game recap, since he’s out in the Bay Area and was at last night’s game, but he just texted me that his Internet is down and won’t have a post up until midday, so here are my stray observations from last night’s Phil Hughes gem, bullet-point style:

– This was probably the best I’ve ever seen Phil Hughes pitch. We all fondly remember his flirtation with a no-no in Texas in the second Major League start of his career in 2007, which ended with a pulled hamstring after 6 1/3 innings. Last night he was absolutely, utterly, ridiculously dominant in tossing seven no-hit innings. He started a ton of guys off with first pitch strikes, and seemed to run to an 0-2 count on nearly everyone before quickly putting them away. Before the 8th inning, I believe he only went to 3 balls on one one hitter, and that was Daric Barton in the first inning.

– What a change a start makes. After expending 108 pitches to get through five-plus in his first start, Hughes was absolutely cruising last night. One of my biggest concern’s with Phil as a starter has been pitch economy, and while he’s not going to get to the 8th having thrown only 85-90 pitches every outing, last night should be a huge step in the right direction and give him the confidence to blow hitters away.

– Speaking of blowing hitters away, how about that fastball? I don’t know if I’ve ever seen Hughes with such pinpoint control and speed. It seemed like every time he needed to get a strike with a fastball he got it. Even the pitches he missed on were perilously close to the strike zone.

– Hughes finally gave up a hit after 7 innings of no-hit ball to Zombie Eric Chavez in the 8th, and even though it was hit fairly hard right back up the middle Hughes still might have been able to make a play on it had he seen where the ball went. Kind of a tough way to lose the no-no, but better that than in in the ninth.

– Hughes had 10 strikeouts!

– Here’s Hughes’ line for the game: 7.1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 10 K. The outing brought his season ERA down to to 2.74.

– This wouldn’t have been possible had we not saved Phil Hughes.

– As great as Hughes was, Ben Sheets wasn’t all that bad himself. Aside from the back-to-back triples that got the Yankees on the board, he pretty much had his way with the Yankee offense, tossing six innings of four-hit, two-run ball.

– The problem with only scoring two runs is that once Hughes came out there was a chance the bullpen could vulture the win. Thankfully Joba Chamberlain pitched into and out of trouble in the eighth. Mariano seemed to labor a bit in collecting his three outs in the ninth, but he was able to lock it down, picking up his sixth save and securing the Yanks’ sixth straight victory.

– The offense outside of A-Rod and Robinson Cano for the most part was actually fairly wretched in this game. Derek Jeter seems to have little interest in working counts this year and annoyingly swung at the first pitch in more than one at-bat, and also continued to ground out at an alarmingly high rate. Although he did work his second walk of the season! Brett Gardner actually picked up a huge two-out insurance RBI base hit in the ninth, so good on him.

– Both Big Tex and Nick the Walk continue to struggle, at least hitting-wise. Tex went 0-4 and looked pretty lousy in all four trips to the plate. NJ at least picked two more walks up for his troubles, and hit a couple of balls somewhat deep to the outfield but unfortunately right at outfielders. Of course, their BABIPs continue to remain unsustainably low, at .185 for Johnson and .135 for Teixeira (second-lowest in all of baseball!), so we know a correction is coming.

– The Yankees won their fifth straight series to open the season, which matches the team’s 1926 franchise record.

An option for the 2011 rotation?

Yankeeist favorite Ben Sheets is off to a decent start with Oakland, picking up his first win of the season last night on the strength of six scoreless innings. Sheets has a 2.65 ERA (although an unsightly 5.71 xFIP) over three starts.

It’s obviously too early to say if Sheets will regain his once-dominating form, but this could turn out to be the sleeper signing of the offseason. Sheets’ $10 million price tag pretty clearly scared most teams off, although considering that we’re paying Home Run Javy $11.5 million — and don’t get me wrong, unlike the rest of the ridiculous Yankee fanbase, I am in no way writing Vazquez off after a mere two starts — one can’t help but wonder whether Sheets might’ve been worth the gamble.

If nothing else, Sheets could be an interesting option if Andy Pettitte retires and the Yanks opt not to re-sign Vazquez after the season.

Players to Watch, AL West

Hey all. How are we on this Thursday afternoon? Please excuse the relatively abbreviated post today, but I had to hand in a big paper yesterday, but was unable to because of a car breakdown. Awesome. Anyway, let’s keep this mini-series rolling and turn the proverbial spotlight to the Left Coast and look at AL West players we should check up on during the 2010 season.

Starting, as usual, with the division winner (Angels), I’m gonna pick Scott Kazmir. Kazmir started off poorly with Tampa in 2009, pitching to a 5.92 ERA with a 1.541 WHIP and a pedestrian 1.82 K/BB. Something clicked for Kazmir when he got to the Angels, though. His ERA dropped below 2 (1.73) and his WHIP improved to 1.046, and his K/BB went up to 2.60. After a few seasons of numbers tailing the wrong way, late 2009 was great for Scott. We’ll see if he can keep it up out there in L.A. or if his slide towards mediocrity will continue.

Texas Ranger RF Nelson Cruz burst onto the scene in 2009, making the All Star Team and ending the year with an .856 OPS and 33 homers. I pick Cruz because he is a late bloomer and it will be interesting to see if he can pull a Jayson Werth and become a big time player in his late 20’s. Like many on his team, Cruz hit worse on the road than at home, though his road IsoP (.246) was still impressive. Due to his age, it’s unlikely that we’ll see much improvement from Nelson, but even if he stays at his 2009 levels, he’ll be a valuable player for the Rangers.

The Mariners plan to win this season by pitching and defense. The best defensive player they have is CF Franklin Gutierrez. This guy is just unreal in CF. When the Yankees played the M’s, I didn’t get excited about any ball hit towards center field because I knew he’d track it down. The metrics (UZR, that is) back this up: his UZR/150 in CF in ’09 was a ridiculous 27.1; his raw UZR was 29.1. Long story short, Gutierrez is epic on defense. His bat caught up a bit last year as he posted a 104 OPS+. So long as he hits at a league average pace and plays defense like he can, he’ll continue to post 4-5 WAR seasons. That glove is mighty valuable.

Lastly, we come to the Oakland A’s. Billy Beane’s boys took the biggest risk/reward ticket this offseason: Ben Sheets. When healthy, Sheets is a top-of-the-league pitcher and will certainly help the A’s young rotation (also watch for Brett Anderson to improve this year) learn a thing or two. Of course, he’ll likely add a few wins to the register as well…if he can stay on the field. If not, then the A’s have a sunken cost and the risk/reward move will not pay off. However, this is the A’s and Billy Beane we’re talking about. If he finds his team out of competition by the break, he could spin Sheets for something valuable. if they’re in contention, Sheets will likely have been a big part of that. While health is always the key factor with pitchers, it’s even more magnified with Sheets.

Holy crap I'd forgotten how long the offseason truly is

Another day, another non-story about Johnny Damon.

While I’ve been very pleased with Yankeeist’s output (big ups to Mike and Jason), it’s been a bit of a challenge to come up with content given that the Yankees haven’t done anything for over a month since trading for Vazquez, and this late-January lull is starting to really rear its ugly head.

A few newsworthy items:

Interesting move by the A’s picking up Ben Sheets. Despite the Yankees having no room for him, I’ve been coveting Sheets forever, and am definitely jealous to see him on another American League team. Feels like a bit of an overpay for a team like the A’s, but hey, Billy Beane probably knows what he’s doing.

The Cubs added Xavier Nady as a fourth outfielder on a contract that could be worth as much as $5.3 million in incentives. If that’s the kind of deal a guy who played all of eight games last season is getting, you have to figure Damon is worth at least that much.

The Twins picked up Jim Thome for their bench. I was going to make fun of this, but Thome’s actually still a fairly productive hitter, and for $1.5 million he should be a good weapon for a team that hasn’t always been known for its pop.

The offseason is especially long for someone like myself who doesn’t give a crap about football, but this year, perhaps more than ever (although I’m sure I say this every year) spring training cannot come soon enough.

Cubs sign Nady, A’s sign Sheets

According to Yahoo! Sports’ Tim Brown, the Chicago Cubs have signed former Yankee, Xavier Nady, to a one-year deal. He will likely serve as outfield insurance but will also be a right-handed platoon option, spelling Kosuke Fukudome against left-handers.

How does this affect the Yankees’ pursuit of a right-handed bat? Well, the Yankees really wanted Nady, however, he priced himself out of the team’s budget. Jon Heyman says the deal is for $3.3M, but there are an additional $2M in incentives that could be obtained based on games played. If that’s the case, I can see why the Yankees chose to avoid Nady as he could cost over $5M. However, if Nady gets $3.3M guaranteed, there is no way Damon will settle for $2M from the Yankees, especially since Nady and Damon share the same agent in Scott Boras. The Yankees would have to offer at least $5M, plus incentives, in order to keep Damon around.

The good news is that with Nady on board, the Cubbies won’t be re-signing Reed Johnson, making him a bigger target for Brian Cashman to pursue (assuming Damon is too pricey).

In addition to Nady being removed from the free agent market, the Oakland Athletics have signed Ben Sheets to a one-year, $10 million deal. Oakland likely overpaid to get him – $10 million is a lot for a pitcher who hasn’t thrown in a game since 2008 – but it’s a good signing since they had money to spend. This move, like the Nady deal, affects the Yankees’ outfield search in that the A’s may no longer be interested in Johnny Damon. Buster Olney writes that the “Oakland-Damon dialogue is continuing,” even after the addition of Sheets for $10 million, however, it just doesn’t seem like a fit given Oakland’s current roster and spending limitations.