Sheets-Wood: A Rebuttal
If you scroll down the page a piece, you will see my esteemed colleague Ben Godar profer the opinion that Ben Sheets has turned into Kerry Wood. While the injuries to the Milwaukee Brewers staff ace have been well documented, the statement that Sheets’ woes rival that of the fireballing righty from Chi-town are mistaken.
Sheets has missed 28 starts in his six seasons in the big leagues. In eight seasons, Kerry Wood has missed 87 starts. Comparing the two doesn’t do justice to Sheets, at least not yet.
Wood came into the league as a flat-out phenom. After being drafted fourth overall in the 1995 draft, Wood dominated the minor leagues, and made his debut at age 21. His rookie season was little short of spectacular, as he went 13-6 with 233 strikeouts in 166 innings. He garnered Rookie of the Year honors, had a 20-strikeout game against the Astros in just his fifth career start and helped lead the Cubs to their first playoff berth since 1989. It appeared as though a Cubs prospect had actually lived up to their considerable hype.
However, after the magical ’98 season, Wood was bitten by the injury bug. He missed all of the 1999 season after he suffered a ligament tear in his elbow. He came back in May of 2000, and made 23 starts and ended with an ERA of 4.80. The following year, he missed a month of action with shoulder tendonitis, but was solid overall, winning 12 of 18 decisions, and compiling a 3.36 ERA.
2002 and 2003 were the halcyon days of Wood’s career, at least in terms of durability. He didn’t miss a start in those two years, and averaged 212 IP and 241 strikeouts. Impressive to be sure. However, in the two-plus years since then, Wood has made only a total of 45 starts, with his next turn in the rotation being completely unknown.
The Ben Sheets story also began in the first round, as he was the 10th overall selection by the Brewers in 1999. Sheets also worked his way quickly through the minors, and lead team
After making two starts to begin the year in AAA, Sheets made his big league debut in April of ’01, and made 25 starts that year for the Brewers, winning nine games in the first half and securing a spot on the National League All-Star team.
For the next three years, Sheets didn’t miss a start, becoming one of the most dependable pitchers in the league. Over the course of those three years, he averaged 224 IP, and over 11 wins for three truly terrible teams. He was one of the top hurlers in the league in 2004, with a WHIP under 1, and a K rate of 10.3/9 IP.
He signed a huge four-year extension before the 2005 season, and missed 12 starts throughout the season. He had a freak incident with vestibular neuritis, an inner ear infection that sidelined him for two months. When he did pitch, an impressive 3.33 ERA was the result.
So far this season, Sheets missed two starts at the beginning of the season, as he was still rehabbing from a torn muscle in his shoulder suffered at the end of 2005. He came back and made one mediocre start, two terrific starts, and one start where he showed he had nothing left. Following that start, he went on the DL with shoulder tendonitis, and has been there ever since. Sheets is currently getting closer to his return, throwing to hitters in
While he won’t be the cure to what ails the Brewers, his return would certainly help to stabilize the rotation. And when Ben Sheets is at the top of his game, there are few pitchers that are better.