Fantasy Baseball

Analysis: Sheets signs with A's

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Gerrit Ritt

Gerrit is a fantasy editor for FOXSports.com.MORE>>
 
   
 

So, Ben Sheets is now an Oakland A, huh? Interesting.

I say that only because he’s become synonymous with Milwaukee, playing for them for all of his eight years in the league. That’s rare these days, so even though they’re one of my Cubbies’ biggest rivals, it’s a shame to see him go.

However, there are definitely worse places to be for a pitcher than the Bay Area. As is the case with San Francisco also, Oakland’s ballpark is one in which pitchers love to play in. The outfield’s a vast wasteland where long fly balls go to die, most often in their speedy outfielders’ mitts.

But that’s not the only reason I like Ben’s chances of coming back strong this year. There are several other reasons for that.

First off, the injury to his elbow seems to be repaired and as good as new. He was consistently hitting 92 mph on the gun in his throwing session last week. It was obviously good enough for the forever-cash strapped A’s to give him $10 million for one year and immediately name him their Opening Day starter. That kind of thing doesn’t happen every day, especially with power pitchers who just sat out an entire season after surgery to his throwing arm.

Secondly, he’s found ways to win on bad teams before and he’ll do it again. Luckily for him, the A’s are looking to be one of the trendy sleeper teams this year, with impressive youngsters at virtually every position and an obviously improving pitching rotation.

The Brewers weren’t a contending team for most of his time there. In fact, the best season of his career came in 2004, where he went 12-14 with a ridiculous 2.70 ERA and even more ridiculous 264 strikeouts.

That team came in dead last in the N.L. Central with a 67-94 record. He hasn’t had an ERA higher than 3.82 since then. No, he won’t be striking out that many guys again, but if he can do that kind of thing on a last-place team, imagine what he may be able to do playing in the pitcher-friendly parks of Oakland, Seattle and Los Angeles 75 percent of the time.

And finally, he won’t have to worry about that pesky hitting thing any more! It’s true – Sheets is one of the worst-hitting pitchers in baseball, posting an average above .100 just once in eight seasons.

Folks, that’s tough to do. I’m not saying he should be hitting .300 like Micah Owings, Carlos Zambrano and Mike Hampton approach every year, but come on man, at least make it look like you care about it just a little! Being able to let the DH do his dirty work for him will allow him to focus more on what he does best – mow down batters in good form.

Sure, there’s always a risk with guys who just missed a full season the year before, but Chris Carpenter, John Smoltz, A.J. Burnett, Rich Harden, Josh Johnson, Jason Isringhausen, Kerry Wood and Carl Pavano all proved it could be done. Why will Sheets be any different? He’s had more time off in one stretch than any of those others had, so you have to believe he’ll jump right back in to being a top notch starter in this league.

The one thing I can see going down are his strikeout numbers. That’s primarily due to the team likely keeping his innings down, which is the safe way to go. If he can still K more than 140 batters, though, I imagine you’d be pretty happy (and he’s done that in five of his eight seasons already).

The ERA I’m not really worried about, as a figure in the 3.30-3.70 range seems about right considering where his team plays. His WHIP has always been solid too, as he’s walked more than 50 batters in a season just once in his whole career!

The wins, though, are what I’m most excited about. He’s never won more than 13 in a season before, so the upside here is the best of any stat on the board. If things go well, and the A’s have the improved season I believe they’ll have, there’s no reason he can’t get that number up to 15 or 16, especially with their bullpen being as strong as it is with Andrew Bailey, Michael Wurtz, Joey Devine, Brad Ziegler and potentially Justin Duchscherer again. That’s as good as any in baseball.

My final prediction for Sheets is a positive one, although not overly optimistic. I have to adjust a little bit for the possibility of a re-injury, but not too much.

2010 Prediction : 14-7 record, 3.55 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 145 strikeouts

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