October 2, 2012 at 7:13 pm by David Lee under Atlanta Braves
Ben Sheets is calling it a career. Mark Bowman broke the news today that Wednesday will be Sheets’ final outing. He is expected to throw two innings before handing it over to Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado.
And how fitting that is. It wasn’t long ago Sheets was in those two youngsters’ shoes, throwing gas and expected to be an anchor in a team’s rotation.
Now, he just wants to throw a couple innings and go home to his family.
Sheets was the 10th overall pick in 1999 out of UL-Monroe. He reached as high as No. 5 on Baseball America’s Top 100, tossing a combined 2.40 ERA in 153.2 innings between Double-A and Triple-A in 2000. Baseball Prospectus wrote this on Sheets in 2001: “We heard he pitched pretty well in an international tournament last year. Ben Sheets doesn’t get tons of strikeouts, but he throws hard, pitches inside, and gets a lot of weakly-hit balls. A low strikeout rate is often a danger sign, but in Sheets’s case, we’re not worried at all. He has a good chance to be the NL Rookie of the Year.“
Of course, before that, he became an Olympic champion by throwing a shutout against Cuba in the 2000 Games, winning a gold medal and sitting himself right up front in the baseball world.
Sheets plugged away in 2002 and 2003, recording ERA’s of 4.15 and 4.45 with good strikeout rates and an improving walk rate. But he was labeled as an innings eater at the time, not having yet turned a corner.
That changed in 2004, as Sheets recorded a 2.70 ERA and 2.65 FIP over 237 innings, including a 28.2% strikeout rate and 3.4% walk rate. Sheets finished second in the league in FIP, third in ERA, third in K%, second in BB%, first in K/BB and fifth in LD%, all while throwing the third-most innings. The man finished eighth in Cy Young voting. If you ever need another reason why award voting is nearly meaningless…
And the Brewers simply ran him into the ground. Some pitchers are able to withstand a lot of innings early in a career and some can’t. Sheets never had the shoulder, back or arm for 215+ innings between the ages of 23-25. It doesn’t help when you throw a curveball 30% of the time in your career.
The result was four trips to the disabled list between 2005-07 and nine total in his career. That includes shoulder inflammation, a shoulder strain, another shoulder strain, more shoulder inflammation, Tommy John surgery, and eventually more shoulder inflammation with the Braves this season. He never reached 200 innings again.
Sheets’ injury history isn’t just a loss for him, it’s a loss for baseball. He had a talent for getting strikeouts, particularly with the curveball, that deserved a long career. We all wanted Sheets. We wanted to see him punch out 10+ every outing. When it came against other teams, we could do nothing but watch in awe and applaud it. When it came against the Braves, we did the same.
When the Braves signed Sheets this season, we all agreed that even one good start from him would make the signing worthwhile. He gave the Braves 48 solid innings before his shoulder said no more. As a Braves fan, you can’t ask for any more out of the man. As a baseball fan, you can’t help but want more.