Before the season began, I made statements among my baseball-savvy friends that Ben Sheets may rival Johan Santana this year as the best pitcher in all of baseball. Now of course, health is a concern with Sheets (averaged 19.5 starts over past two years) but when he pitched, you can actually make a pretty good case that he was the only pitcher who could even be uttered in the same breath as Johan:
As the numbers show, Johan was still better, but not by much. ERA notwithstanding, their peripherals were very similar. They are both power pitchers who do a remarkable job at limiting walks and homeruns. If you don’t believe me, look around. Aside from these two, you will not find two starting pitchers who have this perfect assembly of limiting walks, homeruns, and contact simultaneously.
Which may be why this article caught my attention. After his first outing this year, in which Sheets threw a complete-game two hitter against the Dodgers, I noticed that he had only registered three strikeouts, but I chalked it up to flukiness. But his strikeout rate is yet to improve. 20 innings pitched. 8 strikeouts. That’s 3.6Ks per 9 innings. Chien-Ming Wang territory.
Sheets has obviously noticed.
“To me, the lack of missing bats is kind of startling,” Sheets said Sunday after yet another frustrating outing against the St. Louis Cardinals.
“I ain’t hit a spot all year, really,” he said. “I got away with everything (against the Dodgers). I didn’t miss any bats. They just hit it to people.”
Is Sheets DL-bound again? Seeing as the Brewers have an organizationally rampant hatred of all things defense, Sheets cannot succeed without his strikeouts. Bill Hall in centerfield will not be mistaken for Torii Hunter. Sheets has to limit the number of balls in play, and unless we see progress real soon on his strikeout numbers, he’s going to make me look absolutely stupid for even comparing him to Johan Santana (and we all know that’s the most important thing, right?).