Nationals at Brewers: Saturday, August 9 at 7:05 ET
Tonight is game 2 of the free agent preview double-feature, as we first got to see CC Sabathia, one of the toughest lefties in the game, and now Ben Sheets, one of the game's best righties (when healthy).
First let me say that if Sheets and Sabathia perform as they can from here on out, the Brewers will be tough to beat. There's no reason this team can't make a serious run, and if the season ended today, they'd be the wild card team and going in with the best 1-2 starting pitching combination in baseball.
But for Nationals fans thinking about making one of these guys a major blockbuster free agent signing in the off-season, I'd be reluctant to go after either. Don't get me wrong, they're great pitchers. But these guys will command major, long-term deals. I would think they'll both get Zito money or more--which would mean 7 years, $126m. Sheets probably doesn't get quite that many years, but I'd be very suprised if he doesn't get at least 5 years and 18-20 million a year.
Now, it's not my money. I don't care whether the Lerners make a gajillion dollars or a gajillion billion. As far as I'm concerned they are monopolist developer low-lifes who have made a fortune destroying open space and contributing to turning Northern Virginia traffic into the fiasco that it is today. But, realistically, I don't expect them to bring on very many big salaries like this--how many teams do?--and I wouldn't want to spend it on either of these two.
Sheets's injury history is well documented. I'm actually kind of a softy for Big Ben. I love watching him pitch, and I think he's a real leader. But there's no way you can count on him. If he's your #2 or even #3 starter, then you have potentially something great. Or if you are part of the Yankee-Red Sox axis of evil and can spend that kind of money knowing it might be totally lost, then fine. But if you're counting on him to be your #1, you are foolish.
CC would be a better option, but for that reason he'll surely get the really blockbuster money. I just don't like the fact that a) he went over 250 innings at age 26, and b) he's fat. Sorry, but he just doesn't seem like the kind of guy whose conditioning will allow him to age well. For some fat pitchers it doesn't matter, but I would just be reluctant to commit 6+ years to any pitcher, much less one who's had that kind of abuse and who is, yes, fat.
Ben Sheets: When healthy, there are few if any better. Consider this: in 2006, he posted a K:BB ratio of 10.55!! You know how many pitchers have done better than that? One: Bret Saberhagen in 1994. Only one other pitcher has ever broken ten--Jim Whitney in 1884. Now, to be precise, Sheets didn't pitch enough innings that year to qualify for the record (minimum is 1 IP per team game), but still, that's an otherworldly number.
He has a great curve, a great fastball, and a damn fine change-up. His command can be near machine-like. When he's on, forget it.
I guess if you wanted to nit-pick, int hte past he's been a bit of a flyball pitcher, but he's even brought that number down this year. He's a great pitcher having one of his better seasons.
Tim Redding: Redding survived Coors last time out, going 5 innings and giving up 4 ER. Fact still remains that he's only given one "quality start" (a dumb stat, but it makes my point here) in his last 4 times out. What's wrong? Is it the pressure of the trade rumors? Tough matchups against the Phils and Rockies? Some people say I just hate Tim Redding, but for me I just kinda think he's more of a 4.44 pitcher than the 3.85 guy he was 4 starts ago.
The reporting is that lots of teams inquired about Redding at the break but that Bowden didn't trade him because he was holding out for someone like the Rockies' Ian Stewart. If so, we probably lost our chance to get any real value for him.
What To Look For
--E-Bone had his first 0-fer last night. Let's see how he bounces back.
--Unnoticed in my previous posts, Lastings Milledge is now your team leader in homers with 10. Thank god it's not Belliard anymore.
--Yeah, I know he's struggled, but can we please have Kory Casto back at first? Let Belliard flail away at the lefty Sabathia, but starting him regularly is pointless.
--Belliard and Harris, and Milledge have had some success against Sheets. But the two guys who have seen him the most, Kearns and Guzman, are 0 for 9 and 3 for 17, respectively.
--The Brewers have seen a lot of Redding, and they've liked with they've seen. Counsell, Kendall, Fielder, and Braun all have OPS's over .950 against him.
What to Root For
Can Milledge keep it up? The kid can stay hot when he gets hot. We're getting a reminder of why we were excited to get him. Good for you, LMillz.
(Season record: 8-9)
Sheets keeps it going for the Brew Crew. I'm going to call this one 6-2 Milwaukee.