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« Inside Heat Hurting Adrian Gonzalez | Main | Encarnacion Cashes in on 2012 Power Surge »

Sheets Gets Whiffs in MLB Return

The Atlanta Braves' seven-strong starting rotation quickly crumbled in 2012, with Arodys Vizcaino and Brandon Beachy getting matching Tommy John scars and Julio Teheran coming down with whiplash from all the homers given up at Triple-A Gwinnett. Enter Ben Sheets, the one-time Brewers ace whose career has been short-circuited by back, shoulder, finger and elbow injuries, including his own Tommy John procedure in August 2010.

Sheets, who sports the 12th-best strikeout-to-walk ratio among starting pitchers tossing at least 1,000 frames during the new Millennium, was sharp yesterday versus the Mets in his first MLB start since July 19, 2010. The now-33-year-old righty threw six scoreless innings, allowing two hits while striking out five and walking one. Sheets got Mets batters to whiff at 10 of the 40 pitches they swung at (25 percent), missing bats with both his fastball and sweeping curve.

Sheets averaged 90.9 MPH on the gun with his fastball, topping out at 93.3. That's still down a couple of ticks from his halcyon days with the Brew Crew, but he did manage to get David Wright to swing through a pair of high heaters. Josh Thole, Ike Davis and Kirk Nieuwenheis also came up empty against high fastballs:

Location of Sheets' fastball whiffs vs. Mets, 7/15/12

By contrast, Sheets kept his high-70s curveball low, getting whiffs on the pitch from Davis, Thole, Daniel Murphy, Ruben Tejada and Andres Torres:

Location of Sheets' curveball whiffs vs. Mets, 7/15/12

While Sheets has never had a problem avoiding lumber with his curve, he had one of the 15-lowest fastball miss rates among AL starters when he last pitched with the Athletics in 2010. With so much contact being made, opponents slugged .583 against the pitch (third-highest among AL starters). If Sheets can miss more bats with his fastball while still snapping off quality curves, the Braves could have a low-cost solution to the club's unexpected rotation woes.

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