Now that you have C.C., time to ease off Sheets

Posted by Steve

Well, it’s finally done. Those talks dragged out all weekend, and for a while it looked like Cleveland might foolishly turn down the Brewers offer, which was much better than any other they were getting. As I’ve said repeatedly, I really hate losing LaPorta for someone the Brewers won’t control beyond this season.

Since it’s done and over with, I won’t dwell too much on how much they may have overpaid, because if they make the playoffs it’s probably worth it, and if they go deep into the playoffs it will be worth it almost for sure. The Brewers do get two comp picks back for Sabathia as well.

Quick side note before I get into the meat of this post: Tom Haudricourt was absolutely awesome this weekend. He made several updates to the JS blog, and continually scooped both the national writers and Cleveland writers. Props to TH.

On to the main event. Doug Melvin truly put his neck on the line by doing this deal. The Brewers absolutely need to make the playoffs after giving up such a huge offer for a rental player. I don’t think I need to explain why a Sheets-Sabathia tandem would be outstanding for the playoffs, but first things first: make sure they get there, and make sure both pitchers are healthy when it happens.

Baseball Prospectus has developed what they call Pitcher Abuse Points (PAPs). You can find a description of their formula here, but basically it a weighed system that starts earning points for each pitch beyond the 100 mark in a game. Why am I bringing this up? Because as of July 5, your most abused pitcher in baseball is none other than Ben Sheets. You can see the full list with categories at BP’s page. A quick summary of the top ten:

1. Ben Sheets

2. Gil Meche

3. Ricky Nolasco

4. Cole Hamels

5. C.C. Sabathia

6. Carlos Zambrano

7. Justin Verlander

8. Jon Lester

9. Tim Lincecum

10. Brett Myers

Now this list can be a bit misleading, as you notice many of the pitchers are “abused” because they happen to be very good pitchers, and very good pitchers have a knack to pitch deeper into games. That said, it’s never good to be number one on this list.

I have complained more than once this season that Ned Yost has kept Ben Sheets in games far too long when the situation has not at all called for it. A couple examples:

Friday’s game against the Pirates when they sent him out in the sixth when he was already over 100 pitches and the team was leading 8-1. He finished the game with 120 pitches, and was not even able to finish the sixth.

Another example was in Minnesota for The Kevin Slowey Game. Slowey looked like Maddux in his prime, and Sheets was struggling to find an out pitch. Sheets had allowed four runs through six, and it was pretty clear that the Brewers probably weren’t even going to score four runs against Slowey. Yet Yost ran him out there for the seventh, needlessly pushing Ben’s pitch count to 115.

Totals of 115 and 120 are huge red flags and put up big PAPs. It seems the Brewers coaching staff are dead set in their thinking that Ben is the ace, and therefore must save the bullpen every time out, regardless of how efficient he is pitching. Sheets is obviously outstanding, and has an amazing ability to throw complete games. That should not mean that he should be left out to toil when he is not on top of his game. 110-pitch complete games are one thing, 120-pitch seven inning outings are quite another. Infamously, Sheets has not quite been a model of health in recent years, and it is moronic to tempt fate with the most important player on your team.

A lot of it has to do with the bullpen struggling to get the ball to Sal Torres, and some of it has to do with other starters (COUGH-SUPPAN-COUGH) not going deep enough and burning up the bullpen.

Getting Sabathia needs to be the start of the process that lessens Sheets’ workload to do everything possible to keep him healthy through September (and hopefully October). C.C. is another guy who goes deep into games, which will hep save the bullpen. Some of you astute readers may have noticed that Sabathia is also on that list; he checks in as the fifth-most abused pitcher of 2008, which is also a cause for concern. Sabathia was dominant last season, but was lit up in the playoffs. Nobody can say for sure, but this may have partially been a result of a tired arm from throwing 241 innings during the season.

The Brewers should be able to ease off C.C. and Sheets a bit this season for a few reasons:

  • One of Bush or McClung will be moved to the bullpen (here’s hoping Mota is DFA’d!), which will hopefully improve the bullpen’s depth and talent level.
  • Even while easing off Sheets and C.C., they will still pitch deeper into games than average pitchers, which will in turn keep the bullpen fresher–in turn, if one of these two guys are off their game, the bullpen should be good to come in a bit earlier.
  • I fully expect the Brewers to add at least one more pitcher (likely a reliever), which will bolster the bullpen even more.

I’m sure Doug Melvin and Ned Yost are anxious for the advice of a random blogger with no connections and limited readership, so here it is. Doug, Ned, you took a huge gamble with the Sabathia trade, and it’s commendable that you were willing to make that move to win this year. That said, it would be devastating to screw it up by riding Ben Sheets into the ground. You have the pieces in place, and you’lll be adding more in the next couple weeks to fine-tune the team for a championship run. If Ben Sheets and C.C. Sabathia stay healthy, the team is a huge favorite to make the playoffs. The number one concern should be to keep Sheets healthy, so Brewers, please take better care of his arm.

Also, see if you can get Mark A to bring back the lemonade stands at Miller Park. That stuff is fantastic.

One response to “Now that you have C.C., time to ease off Sheets

  1. One thing that doesn’t appear to be considered in that formula, is that Sheets has pitched 9 times this season in which he had 5 OFF days between starts (Compared to pitching every 5 days). In the starts in which he was only on 4 days of rest, he threw 112,89,86,122,106 and 120. Obviously, there’s two pretty big numbers up there, but this is only 6 out of 17 starts. His other 11 starts have come with 5 off days (or more, with that missed start due to shoulder tightness) and thus extending him past 100 pitches is probably not as big a deal. I do agree though, that laying off Sheets a little down the stretch would be a good idea to avoid injury and derail this teams aspirations.

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