Tuesday, March 16, 2010

30 A's in 30 Days – Ben Sheets

Acquired: Signed as free agent (January 26, 2010).
Contract: One year thru 2010. (Eligible for free agency after season.)
Position: Half-man, half-disabled list.

Projected ERA: 3.83

Over/Under: I pilloried this deal to death
when it went down, so let's jump off with some positive thinking – take the UNDER on Sheets' projection. The A's aren't getting the 2004-05 version of the pitcher who posted a 2.95 ERA and 1.016 WHIP in just under 400 innings, but there are a few reasons for cautious optimism. Oakland's home ballpark – have you heard about their spacious foul territory? – still plays as a pitcher's park and Sheets will have a pretty nice defense behind him.

His health is still the biggest question mark heading into the season, but Sheets is also auditioning for a midseason move to a contender. No one expects him to be on the roster by August 1 and it won't take much for the pressures of this inevitability – and the small sample size of a few bad performances – to seep into Sheets' head and/or fracture team chemistry. (Here's
Exhibit A in my theory.)

By the Numbers: .076 – That's Sheets' career batting average (33 for 433). I know it won't come into play much in Oakland, but it gives me one more thing to shake my fist at in a comically threatening manner.

Surefire 2010 Prediction: Pencil Sheets in for 16 starts with the A's this season. I figure a starting pitcher averages about 5.5 starts per month. Subtract Sheets' guaranteed four-week disabled list visit during the regular season and the deadline deal that moves him off the roster…16 starts. It's science.

Snoop Dogg Track for the Season:
Wrong Idea


Tom said...

.076 -- That might be as ridiculous as my use of catcher's ERA last season.

That Bootleg Guy said...

True, but in my defense, I used up all the incriminating numbers on Sheets in my "WTF" post on him in January.

I wrote this on Saturday or Sunday and Sheets had yet to give up 10 runs w/o recording an out in Monday's spring training game. So, there..."10" will be his number.

(Note to A's fans: there's a difference between saying that spring training games "don't count" and ST games "don't matter". Sheets' performance yesterday doesn't *count*, but bet your ass it *matters*.)

nicka said...

snoop dogg song: Bitches ain't shit

That Bootleg Guy said...

...but, that's off a *Dr. Dre* album, Nicka!

Troy said...

Sure they matter, just not that much. It's pretty typical of veterans to suck during spring. Since they know they have a spot in the rotation, they can try new pitches, new grips, etc. Most of their spring is just fine tuning things rather than 'pitching'. Sheets didn't strike anybody out in 10 batters faced. So that might be a little worrisome. But allowing 8 hits without recording an out is incredibly unlucky. That's a 1.000 BABIP. That's like rolling a 1 or a 2 8 times in a row on a 6 sided dice...only less likely. On average that would've been 5-6 outs just by allowing the hitters to put the ball in play. Blowouts tend to be overblown. Pitchers rarely pitch as bad as the score shows in a blowout.

I also think you've overblown this signing. It's not as bad as you think. Teams on average pay about 5 million per additional win above replacement. Sheets, even in his injured seasons has been worth over 2 wins above replacement. Also, as a team gets closer to contention, the value of each additional win increases as it vastly increases your chances of a postseason birth. The A's aren't as far behind the rest of the division as most people seem to think.

That Bootleg Guy said...

First off, Troy, I really appreciate your insightful comments. Thanks for taking the time to share.

I think where I disagree with you on Sheets is on the current status of the A's. I simply don't think they've got enough offense to contend with or without Sheets and $10M - while I totally buy into "wins above replacement"/salary stuff.

I don't need to preach to you about the A's finite resources. $10M for a guy who couldn't stay healthy when he *wasn't* coming off an 18-month layoff seems like bad business.

Even if he kicks ass, SO many other things will have to go right for the A's to hang within a competitive AL West. Believe me, I hope I'm wrong.

Troy said...

OK well let me enlighten you on why I believe the A's are better than you think.

Lets first start off on how good we think the A's were in 2009. They won 75 games, ok. But wins isn't always a good indication of true talent level. Pythagorean record is a better indication of how good a team is. The A's only allowed 2 more runs than they scored in 2009(The Mariners allowed 52! more runs than scored). That's about a .500 team. But we can dig deeper than that. The A's were extremely good in the second half at hitting when runners were in scoring position. Too good. They obviously can't sustain that production. They scored about 30 more runs than what is expected of a team with those numbers. That reduces their talent level to that of about a 78-79 win team.

The infield for much of the season consisted of Giambi, Kennedy, Crosby, and Cabrera. All of them were awwwful defensively. They combined to have a -31 UZR. That's 31 runs lost, 3 wins on poor infield defense. The infield as a whole had a -31.4 UZR. The diamond this season consists of Barton, Ellis, Pennington, and Kouzmanoff. All (except maybe Pennington, though most report him as average at worst) are above average fielders. Via UZR projections the infield is expected to be 10 runs above average. That's a 40 run swap on infield defense alone. Overall as a team, the A's had a 5 UZR. This season it's expected to be 45 via projections. The defense is also projected 5 runs better than Seattle's mighty defense. A 4 win improvement on a 78 win team puts them at 82 wins.

On the pitching side of things, the A's are adding Sheets and Duchschserer. If they average 100 innings a piece at a 4 ERA, that's a 2 win improvement over who got those innings last year. Anderson is also expected to improve by at least a win. A 3 win improvement to an 82 win team puts it at 85.

The offense is expected to be roughly the same to a 1 win improvement. But let's just call it the same. 85 wins. That's about where I see this team. I've gone over the numbers multiple times in different ways and keep getting roughly the same result. I've done the same for the other teams in the division. They're all projected about 86-87 wins. This is a tight division, and well worth the risk of the Sheets signing.