Friday, January 9, 2009

Why Ben Sheets Does Not Belong in Pinstripes

There has been discussion over the offseason about whether or not the Yankees should sign Brewers' Free Agent Ben Sheets.

At the beginning of the offseason, before the Yankees signed either CC Sabathia or AJ Burnett, the discussion was somewhat more prevalent, but even now, there are still a surprising number of Yankee fans that are part of the Sign Ben Sheets movement.

Before any analysis of Sheets is gotten into, one basic idea needs to be stated:

Everyone is available for the right price.

In some instances, prices might be prohibitively expensive--for example, if the Yankees wanted to trade for, say, Tim Lincecum (note that I am only using Lincecum to illustrate a point and not seriously proposing an offer!), it would likely take a deal including Joba, Austin Jackson, Mark Teixiera, Chien Ming Wang, Jesus Montero and Robinson Canò, not to mention the Yankees paying the rest of his salary and signing him to a long term, 10, 15 year contract--and that's just for starters.

On the other hand, had Bobby Abreu been willing to accept a one year, perhaps $10 million (instead of $16 million) offer, the Yankees may have elected to re-sign their right fielder.

So, the basic premise here is not that Sheets is not a good pitcher and it's not that Sheets wouldn't help the Yankees win more games; rather, the point is that for the money that Sheets, as an all-star, would likely command, is prohibitive for the risks that would be involved in signing him.

If you haven't, go and read this article from Hardball Times that was published last May. It does a great job of analyzing Sheets, including the number of injuries he has had and how the injuries may be related to his mechanics.

I am far from a baseball mechanics expert, and I can't tell you whether or not the high arm slot is absolutely necessary for Sheets to pitch well.

What I can say is this--Sheets, when healthy, is a great pitcher. There is no doubting that--just think about his performance in last year's All Star Game, for starters.

So, there's a bit of a Catch-22: if one is tempted to alter Sheets' mechanics to save his arm health, one risks possibly losing what makes him a great pitcher in the first place.

More importantly than that, however, is the following:

Why do these injuries continue to mount for Sheets? The culprit appears to be his high arm slot. Although it’s partly responsible for the large 12-6 curveball, it’s also responsible for taxing the rotator cuff to the max. As a rule of thumb, the higher the arm slot, the harder the rotator cuff and biceps must work to stabilize the head of the humerus. This places stress on the rotator cuff interval, which includes ligaments in the front of the shoulder that also add stability.

As some have attested on other blogs, the MRIs of Sheets' shoulder sent to various teams have not looked good, and is, in all likelihood, the number one reason Sheets has yet to be signed when combined with the salary a starter of his caliber could rightfully desire.

Had the Yankees not been able to sign Sabathia or Burnett, the question of whether or not Sheets would loom much larger. As it is, the Yankees still need another starter--unless the Yankees resign Pettitte, they are looking at a 4-5 combo of Joba Chamberlain and one of Phil Hughes/Alfredo Aceves/Phil Coke/etc.

However, the risks inherent with signing Ben Sheets now seem that much more unnecessary to take on when one considers that the Yankees have Chien Ming Wang--their "ace" last year--slotted in the three spot!

Sheets will find a home, for sure, but whatever team that takes him is taking on the risk of him never being able to pitch a full season. After the Pavano disaster, the Yankees probably don't want to go down that road again...

1 comment:

  1. Rebecca -

    I so agree with you and the debate has gotten almost silly at this point. When you consider ALL aspects and repercussions of a Sheets signing, you can't possibly think the Yankees would come out on the sunny side. And it can't be overstated how the Carl Pavano debacle would influence any decision on Sheets.

    Also, as you hinted, none of this is to say that it is impossible to think the Yankees could sign him anyway. :)