With the two most coveted pitchers, C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, off the market and wearing pinstripes, the next top two names come with some concerns. The concern with Ben Sheets and Derek Lowe isn’t regarding how good they are, the concern is in two totally different realms.
As team’s budgets continue to dwindle thanks to the fear most have regarding our country’s economic crisis, more and more teams are becoming more frugal and even more cautious with where they spread their money. That’s why, despite how good they are, Sheets and Lowe are desired by many but held at an arms length.
As I mentioned, each player has a different risk looming in the shadows which is keeping teams at bay. Ben Sheets has a history of injury problems and Derek Lowe is getting older and looking for a longer term contract. So which of these two have less risk and more reward than the other? That’s what we’re going to try to take a look at today. Just which player will help your team more? Let’s take a look at the two cases:
NAME: Ben Sheets
COLLEGE: Northeast Louisiana
MLB DEBUT: 4/5/2001
When Ben Sheets is on the mound he’s been fantastic. The problem over his career has been keeping him healthy enough to be on the mound. Although he has missed time, the number of games has gone up each of the past three seasons. In 2006 he appeared in only 17 games, 2007 he found the mound in 24 games and a career high 31 times in 2008. So while the trend has gone up, the lingering worry still hangs over his head. Just ask the Brewers and their fans.
Although when Sheets is on the mound he’s a true ace. Sheets has a 3/4 arm slot delivery which produces an impressive fastball. The fastball sits in the low to mid-90’s with great life both up and down in the strike zone. Sheets also has the ability to locate his fastball consistently on both sides of the plate and even can add a little cut motion to it. The former Brewer also possess a huge plus-power curveball with a fantastic downward drop and a changeup with solid fading action which he disguises well with an arm speed similar to his fastball.
As you can see when Sheets is on and healthy he can be one of the best pitchers in the game. Sheets is also a great competitor and wants to win with everything he has. This makes him a great addition to any club. I’ve always enjoyed watching the righthander on the mound and I highly suggest trying to find an archived game somewhere on MLB.com or iTunes and checking him out.
(photo courtesy of: Scott Abelman/Flickr)
NAME: Derek Lowe
MLB DEBUT: 4/26/1997
One thing about Derek Lowe is that he has been dependable. Lowe has pitched in at least 33 games each of the past four years for the Dodgers and put up very reliable stats. You know he’ll throw you 200+ innings, you know he’ll get you between 12-14 wins, you know his ERA will be around 4.00 and you know his ground ball percentage will be amongst the best in the league at around 65%. You just need to make sure you have a good infield to gobble up all those grounders.
To say that Derek Lowe is a ground ball pitcher is an understatement. He’s a ground ball machine. Lowe has a 3/4 arm slot which he produces his heavy two-seam fastball (between 86-91 mph) that has incredible run and sink and can be thrown effectively on both sides of the plate. If his sinker is off for whatever reason, he pays for it with a lot of long balls. To keep hitters on their toes Lowe throws a slider which has a quick, late break to get right handed hitters to chase off the plate and a fading changeup to keep left handed hitters off balance. This keeps a nice mix and helps him in jams even despite not being a strikeout pitcher.
Lowe is a very durable and reliable pitcher who has shown flashes of brilliance. He’s more of a middle of the rotation type guy, especially as he gets older, but can pass as a good number two starter. Any team that decides to sign Lowe has to realize at what stage of his career he’s in. He’s not going to be an ace and if his sinker starts to go so does he. While he would be a very nice addition to any rotation, you better first make sure your infield is solid or its a waste of money and you better not sign him for too many years.
(photo courtesy of: Malingering/Flickr)
After looking at what each of these pitchers brings to the table, its still not too easy of a decision to make. On one hand if you need an ace and can risk the possibility of losing him at any given point, Sheets is the way to go. On the other hand if you have a very good infield and need a number two or three starter who you know what you are getting, then your choice is Lowe. The decision is really based on what your team’s situation is.
If I had to pick one pitcher versus the other with no other deciding factor other than who they are I would have to go with Ben Sheets simply for the risk vs. reward factor. If Sheets can give you 30+ starts he will definitely be a big part in helping your team contend for the post season and that’s exactly what you want to set yourself up for.
Of course there is always that word “if.”
By Matthew Whipps
“The Diamond Cutter“
Major & Minor League Baseball Columnist
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