Saturday, October 18, 2014

Between the (Card Show) Sheets

Normally, I would not post a ton of cards from one player unless that one player is one of my "priority" player collections. Sure, Robin Yount and Gary Carter and Paul Molitor get and deserve such special treatment here.

But Ben Sheets?

As I have claimed on my "Ben Sheets Collection" page, Sheets was often the only major-league quality starter employed by the Brewers during many seasons. The blog The Disciples of Uecker put it more bluntly, saying "From 2002 to 2007, Ben Sheets was the Milwaukee Brewers." 

I don't disagree.  I mean, take a look at these rotations:

2001: Jamey Wright, Jimmy Haynes, Ben Sheets Allen Levrault, Paul Rigdon (with Ruben Quevedo, Mac Suzuki, Will Cunnane, Jeff D'Amico, Mark Leiter, Rocky Coppinger, Kyle Peterson, and Nick Neugebauer all starting at least one game)

2002: Sheets, Glendon Rusch, Quevedo, Wright, Neugebauer (with Jose Cabrera, Nelson Figueroa, Ben Diggins, Wayne Franklin, Jimmy Osting, Everett Stull, Andrew Lorraine, and Dave Pember all starting one game or more)

2003: Sheets, Franklin, Matt Kinney, Rusch, Wes Obermueller (with Doug Davis, Quevedo, Todd Ritchie, Matt Ford, Luis Martinez, a 36-year-old Dave Burba, and David Manning all starting 2 games or more each)

You get the picture.

Sheets had seasons with insane K/BB ratios that went to waste in many respects. For example, at the age of 25 in 2004, Sheets walked 1.2 batters per nine innings while striking out 10 batters per nine for a K/BB ratio of 8.25. That led the National League.

Unfortunately, 2004 was the end of a three-year stretch where Sheets averaged 225 innings a season from 2002 to 2004.  Did I add that those seasons were the years in which Sheets was aged 23, 24, and 25?  Those innings were for the greater good of teams that went 56-106, 68-94, and 67-94 under Davey Lopes and Jerry Royster (that 56-106 season) and Ned Yost (those last two years).

If Sheets could have avoided some of those miles on his arm back in those terrible seasons, perhaps the now-36-year-old Sheets would still be pitching for Milwaukee. It's entirely plausible; after all, Kyle Lohse is less than three months younger than Sheets.

In the end, all those innings caught up with him. In 2010 at the age of 32, Sheets had Tommy John surgery and, just for kicks, threw in repairs to his flexor and pronator tendon. To make matters worse, the doctor had to use a hamstring tendon for the Tommy John surgery which caused pain in his legs too. He came back and started 9 games for the Atlanta Braves in 2012, but shoulder issues caused problems that time.

It is a sad case of what might have been. I always liked him as a pitcher, and he's a good Louisiana boy to boot.

Now, most of my card show treasure that I've shown so far were from dime or quarter boxes.  

Not these cards. They were all pulled out of nickel boxes.  Seriously.

As always, thanks for reading.


  1. Ben Sheets will always be my go to example for a pitcher whose always hurt, but really good in the rare moments where he's healthy. Troy Tulowitzki is the hitter version.

    1. Harden isn't a bad comparison on some levels, though Sheets actually pitched about 600 more innings than Harden compiled and, in fact, Sheets averaged an extra 20 innings per 162 games. Harden actually got hurt more frequently and in ways that kept him out for longer than Sheets did. But both are good examples of lost talents due to injury.

  2. Ben Sheets has a short, but awesome peak. Always hate to see talents like that flame out because of injury.