Sheets Signs with Oakland

January 27, 2010

By now you’ve heard about Ben Sheets’ one-year, $10 million contract he just signed with Oakland. But what you may not know is what makes Sheets such a special pitcher. Here’s my scouting report on the right hander:


NAME: Ben Sheets
POSITION: RHP
BORN: 7/18/1978
AGE: 31
BATS: Right
THROWS: Right
COLLEGE: Northeast Louisiana
MLB DEBUT: 4/5/2001

2008 MLB STATISTICS
GM IP W-L ERA SO K/PA BsRA9
31 198.1 13-9 3.09 158 19.5% 3.56

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]


Is Ben Sheets Worth The Risk?

November 25, 2009

It feels as if I was writing this exact same article around this time last year.

Oh wait, that’s right, I was.

Although the situation is very similar, last season’s setback that made Ben Sheets miss the entire season will undoubtedly be in the back of many team’s minds when they consider whether or not to sign the former stud pitcher. I have always been a fan of Sheets and was very vocal in my stance that teams should give him a chance to prove himself last season in some sort of incentive laden deal.

While I admit I was wrong in my stance (thanks to the injury), I am back on the same boat this season and think that teams should give him a chance. And to back up my view, here is a look at what Sheets has done as well as my scouting report on him before the injury.


NAME: Ben Sheets
POSITION: RHP
BORN: 7/18/1978
AGE: 30
BATS: Right
THROWS: Right
COLLEGE: Northeast Louisiana
MLB DEBUT: 4/5/2001

2008 MLB STATISTICS
GM IP W-L ERA SO K/PA BsRA9
31 198.1 13-9 3.09 158 19.5% 3.56

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.

Now let’s hope he proves me right this time.

(photo courtesy of: Scott Abelman/Flickr)


GM for a Day: Texas Rangers

January 23, 2009
My plan will bring the post season back to Arlington (Rich Anderson/Flickr).

My plan will bring the post season back to Arlington (Rich Anderson/Flickr).

The original goal of my “GM for a Day” series was to focus on teams that are on the cusp of the playoffs and what moves could push them over the top. I started this with my first two, the Cubs and the Braves, but veered another direction when I attempted to start rebuilding the Pirates back towards respectability. This edition brings us back to a team who just needs a bit of a boost to make themselves a contender and we will revisit teams who need to rebuild later down the road.

The Texas Rangers exhibited a very strong offense in 2008 with very little pitching help. This wasn’t a real big surprise as that has been the story in Texas for pretty much their entire existence. When you scratch the surface and look at the breakdown, the Rangers scored 5.6 runs per game last season (the best in the AL West) and let up 6.0 runs per game (the worst in the AL West). But if you look closer, here’s win contributions breakdown:

+------+---------+----------+---------+---------+
|      | OFFENSE | STARTERS | BULLPEN | DEFENSE |
+------+---------+----------+---------+---------+
| WPA  |   0.6   |   -4.8   |   2.2   |  -4.0   | 
+------+---------+----------+---------+---------+

As the table above shows, the Rangers defense was almost as big of a liability as the starting pitchers were. These are two big areas the Rangers need to attack heading into 2009. With a huge crop of great young players being cultivated in the minors, the Rangers need to start making strides to have a solid club behind them. They are in a very winnable American League West division with a now weakened Angels club, an improved Athletics team and a still floundering Mariners group. Here’s what I would do if given the reigns for a day:

Luckily the Rangers wouldnt have to rely on Sheets bat (Jibby7/Flickr).

Luckily the Rangers wouldn't have to rely on Sheets' bat (Jibby7/Flickr).

1.) Sign Ben Sheets to a multi-year contract laced with incentives surrounding his durability.

Look, I know that Ben Sheets has an injury filled past with the Brewers. I get it. But if you look closely at his stat lines, he’s improved in the amount of games and innings pitched over the past three seasons including just a hair under 200 last season.

+------+-----+----------+-------+-------+------+-----+------+----+
| YEAR | AGE | TEAM     | IP    |  W-L  | ERA  | SO  | WHIP | GS |
+------+-----+----------+-------+-------+------+-----+------+----+
| 2006 |  27 | Brewers  | 106.0 |   6-7 | 3.82 | 116 | 1.09 | 17 |
| 2007 |  28 | Brewers  | 141.3 |  12-5 | 3.82 | 106 | 1.24 | 24 |
| 2008 |  29 | Brewers  | 198.3 |  13-9 | 3.09 | 158 | 1.15 | 31 |
+------+-----+----------+-------+-------+------+-----+------+----+

When Sheets is healthy and in the rotation, he’s been one of the best pitchers in the game (for a scouting report I wrote on him, click here). The Rangers desperately need a true ace to head up their very questionable rotation and Sheets is just the guy to do it.

In recent years, the Rangers have tried filling their rotation by throwing their money at players that really didn’t have much chance of filling the void. Just look at the two best examples in recent memory. First there was the large contract they threw at Chan Ho Park to be their ace when he was never really any better than a number four starter with the Dodgers and ended up being horrific in Texas. Then they tried to fit Kevin Millwood into that role when he came from Atlanta where he was a number three. So Sheets is really the closest thing to a true ace as they have had in my memory. Throwing him in front of Millwood and Vicente Padilla will go a long way in helping solidify the Rangers’ staff. It won’t make them great, but it will sure help.

2.) Sign Omar Vizquel to a one-year deal and slowly introduce Elvis Andrus into the everyday role.

Yes I know the Rangers already signed Omar Vizquel to a contract, but in all honesty I suggested this a while ago (believe it or not). This makes sense on so many levels. First, Elvis Andrus is a huge piece of your future as a star at the top of your order and you want to slowly get him acclimated to the big leagues without throwing him to the wolves (after all he is currently the ripe old age of 19). Secondly, what better way than with a mentor as highly regarded as Omar Vizquel? He can teach him the ins and outs of the position which is so important for Andrus considering his defensive woes he experienced last season in AA committing a woeful 32 errors. Hopefully Vizquel can help Andrus work through these difficulties as the Rangers can’t afford to weaken their already rough defense.

If Andrus can begin to tighten up on his defense, he has the potential to be a perennial All-Star for years to come as his offensive abilities have been well established. Take a look at his stats from the past couple of seasons.

+------+-----+----------+-----+-----------+----+-----+-----+----+
| YEAR | AGE | LEVEL    | AB  |  AVG/OBP  | HR | RBI |  R  | SB |
+------+-----+----------+-----+-----------+----+-----+-----+----+
| 2005 |  16 | Rookie   | 184 | .293/.380 |  3 |  21 |  29 |  8 |
| 2006 |  17 | Single A | 437 | .265/.324 |  3 |  50 |  67 | 23 |
| 2007 |  18 | A - Plus | 495 | .257/.338 |  5 |  49 |  78 | 40 |
| 2008 |  19 | Double A | 482 | .295/.350 |  4 |  65 |  82 | 54 |
+------+-----+----------+-----+-----------+----+-----+-----+----+

As you can see Andrus has made significant strides towards becoming a more well rounded hitter. His improvement in batting average and on-base percentage is the most notable as these are such important categories for a top of the order hitter. His increase in OBP translated to more stolen bases attempts for the speedster which the Rangers will really love in front of their sluggers. Andrus is just the tip of the iceberg for the fantastic group of prospects the Rangers have coming up through their system.

Clay can prove himself in Texas (hardballwarriors.com).

Clay can prove himself in Texas (hardballwarriors.com).

3.) Trade Jarrod Saltalamacchia (and prospect) to the Boston Red Sox for Clay Buchholz.

Sure having an excess of talented young catchers that you project to be solid offensive weapons is nice, but the Rangers have a log jam of them with Taylor Teagarden, Max Ramiez and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Despite being the shiny piece that came back in the Mark Teixeira trade with the Braves back in the 2006 season, I think Salty is the best of the group to move on. And the best fit is definitely the Boston Red Sox. This is especially the case if they don’t come to terms with Jason Varitek before the season starts. You don’t expect the Red Sox to start the season with Josh Bard as their starting catcher, do you?

I know some of you are questioning the Clay Buchholz portion of the trade as they have been so adamant about not trading him in the past. But with a slew of starting pitchers on the Sox roster heading into next year (Buchholz projects as a number 7 or 8 starter at this point) and a solid group of young pitchers who will be left out in the cold, the Sox need to make a move. Plus they were willing to ship him off to Florida last month in a package for their former prospect Hanley Ramirez (which was shot down after 10 seconds). So at least he isn’t marked “untouchable.” Buchholz would make a nice number four or five starter for the Rangers and would help bridge the gap until their super pitching prospects Neftali Feliz and Derek Holland are ready. We’d be looking at a solid, young staff heading into the next decade.

4.) Sign free agent Cliff Floyd to a one-year, $2 million contract.

If the Rangers are going to be serious about winning the AL West, they are going to need a deep bench and a strong veteran presence in the clubhouse. Cliff Floyd provided both of those things for the young Rays team that took the world by storm last season and he could be a key ingredient for the Rangers in 2009. He can also serve as a reliable back-up for DH Hank Blalock who has been limited to only 123 games combined over the past two seasons. It is these types of seemingly insignificant acquisitions that can make all the difference in a tight race over 162 games.

So with these additions to the bench and rotation, here is how the Rangers team would look heading into next season:

Floyd is the veteran this club needs (keithallisonphoto.com).

Floyd is the veteran this club needs (keithallisonphoto.com).

1.) Elvis Andrus, SS
2.) Michael Young, 3B
3.) Ian Kinsler, 2B
4.) Josh Hamilton, CF
5.) Chris Davis, 1B
6.) David Murphy, LF
7.) Hank Blalock/Cliff Floyd, DH
8.) Nelson Cruz, RF
9.) Taylor Teagarden, C

Ben Sheets, RHP
Kevin Millwood, RHP
Vicente Padilla, RHP
Matt Harrison, LHP
Clay Buchholz, RHP

Looking at that lineup and that starting rotation, it makes me feel a lot better about the Rangers chances to take the AL West. We all knew the Rangers had the offense to hang with anyone in the league so there wasn’t much reason to fix what wasn’t broken. Other than adding Floyd to deepen the bench (which is already fairly strong), the only thing that needed fixing was the rotation. Signing Sheets gives them an ace and trading for Buchholz gives them depth and a solid young arm for years to come at the expense of a position they are already extremely deep at.

While I’d like to add another pitcher from somewhere (via trade or free agency – Andy Pettitte if you really want to throw some money around) I think this is enough to start with. Hopefully they will be in position to be buyers at the trade deadline and can add an extra arm (Paul Byrd?) if needed.

The time is now to strike in the American League West as the former kings of the division have some major weaknesses that can be taken advantage of. And the Rangers are just the team to do it if they can just correct some issues that have plagued them for decades.

By Matthew Whipps
The Diamond Cutter
Major & Minor League Baseball Columnist
mlbdiamondcutter@gmail.com | Facebook

| | | |


Versus Series: Sheets vs. Lowe

December 20, 2008
If teams were using Monopoly money, decisions would be so much easier (mtsofan/Flickr)

If teams were using Monopoly money, decisions would be so much easier (mtsofan/Flickr)

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
POSITION: RHP
BORN: 7/18/1978
AGE: 30
BATS: Right
THROWS: Right
COLLEGE: Northeast Louisiana
MLB DEBUT: 4/5/2001

2008 MLB STATISTICS
GM IP W-L ERA SO K/PA BsRA9
31 198.1 13-9 3.09 158 19.5% 3.56

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
POSITION: RHP
BORN: 6/1/1973
AGE: 35
BATS: Right
THROWS: Right
COLLEGE: N/A
MLB DEBUT: 4/26/1997

2008 MLB STATISTICS
GM IP W-L ERA SO K/PA BsRA9
34 211 14-11 3.58 147 17.3% 3.31

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
mlbdiamondcutter@gmail.com | thefranch15e

| | | |