Sabathia vs. Sheets? More similar than you think.

Posted by Steve

I constantly find myself defending two of my favorite Brewers—Rickie Weeks and Ben Sheets. Though they are admittedly two of my favorites, I like to think my use of numbers to back up my stance prevents me from blindly arguing something.

I’m going to do the same here, and after going on a IluvRickie binge, I’m switching back to Sheets. Sheets’s recent struggles combined with CC Sabathia’s incredible run in a Brewer uniform have clouded many people’s opinions of each player. It’s the classic ‘what have you done for me lately’ syndrome. People are putting far too much stock into the last month of performances, and as a result hold CC in too high a regard and Sheets too low. Sheets is clearly better than he’s pitched over the last month (and I know people realize this), but nobody is as good as Sabathia has been in his first six Brewer starts. CC is on an incredible run right now, but it’s at a level so high that it’s impossible to maintain. I mean, the dude was charged with two earned runs in 8 1/3 innings on Saturday, and his ERA rose.

I’ve heard a lot of statements similar to the following:

Sheets is putting too much pressure on himself since the team got CC; he’s trying to prove he’s still “the man.” Nonsense. His last start before the team acquired Sabathia wasn’t sharp either, for starters. Secondly, it’s quite possible that Sheets is fatigued. Once Ben throws ten more innings, he’ll have more innings under his belt in one season than any since his absurd 2004 campaign. He’s still at the top of the Pitcher Abuse list, and he threw on four days’ rest after the All-Star Break. Luckily, the team has a well-timed day off on Thursday that will allow him an extra day’s rest before his next start. Hopefully that will have a positive effect.  Sheets’s rough patch may simply be random; he had a similar stretch from late April to mid-May.

Sheets doesn’t win enough.

I heard supposed intelligent Chicago baseball analyst Steve Stone on the radio this morning, discussing Ben’s struggles. I’ll paraphrase. “Ben Sheets has always been counted on as a big-game pitcher, but he’s never really performed like one. He’s being paid $12 million a year, and he’s never one more than 12 games. I’ll repeat that: he’s never won more than 12 games.” Thanks for that brilliant insight, Einstein. This is another reason Sheets is underappreciated by many. People still see wins as a meaningful stat, when it is, in fact, utterly useless. Sheets has had terrible run support over most of his career, which is the biggest reason he doesn’t have a lot of wins.

Sheets is good, but he’s no CC.

Au contraire! Now, CC will almost certainly land a more lucrative contract than Sheets, but career numbers won’t be the reason. It will be for two other reasons: Sabathia is a couple years younger than Sheets, and he has been more durable. I imagine many would be surprised by their career stat-lines. I compared them over a few categories: ERA+ (This stat factors in ballpark effects and attempts to compare pitchers over the same field. League average ERA+ is 100.), strikeout/walk ratio, strikeouts/9 innings, walks/9 innings and WHIP.

Sabathia Career: 117 ERA+, 2.57 K/BB, 7.47 K/9, 2.91 BB/9, 1.255 WHIP

Sheets Career: 115 ERA+, 3.89 K/BB, 7.66 K/9, 2.03 BB/9, 1.207 WHIP

As you can see, their overall career numbers are extremely similar, and I’d probably argue that Sheets’s numbers are slightly better. Of course, that edge is more than made up for by their innings total—1376 for Sheets, 1576.7 for Sabathia. Nonetheless, the point is the same: Sheets has been no less effective than Sabathia over the course of their careers. People are letting the last five weeks cloud their judgment.


2 responses to “Sabathia vs. Sheets? More similar than you think.

  1. As far as career numbers are concerned, it bears mentioning that for his whole career, Sabathia has been facing a DH while Sheets has had the luxury of striking out pitchers. Might not make a HUGE difference but it makes one nonetheless.

  2. A very valid point. AL ERAs are typically .1 to .15 higher than NL ERAs. A decent discussion here with some good links on the topic of translating AL stats to NL (and vice versa).

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