Sunday, July 15, 2012

Ben Sheets: First Impressions

I left the house at 1:30 this afternoon for some father/daughter time, though the off-and-on rain put a damper on that.  Still, after some fun, we got back around 5:00 in time to send the wife to work and get dinner ready for the munchkin before bed time.  Then...it was to the TV and lovely DVR recording of the Mets/Braves. 

Ben Sheets was superb and that goes beyond just the numbers, which were excellent at 6 innings, 2 hits (including a double), a walk, and five strikeouts.  He threw 88 pitches and 57 went for strikes and with the highly inconsistent C.B. Bucknor behind the plate, that is an insanely notable accomplishment.  Probably was (and should have been) on a pitch limit so six efficient innings and a win to his record (and my J.V. fantasy team). 

His curve was working for most of the game, but was especially good early.  Ruben Tejada K'd on one to open things, Daniel Murphy flew out to Michael Bourn on another, and another ended the first when Ike Davis essentially flipped the bat after it to fly out to Jason Heyward.  He did fall in love with it a bit much in his one "bad" inning in the third.  Against Murphy, he used a pair of curves to help get a strike two and had Murphy guessing curve again, but Sheets went with his fastball and Murphy purposely fouled it away without much of a stride.  Instead of doubling up on the fastball with Murphy sitting curve, Sheets threw another breaking ball and it was a hanger.  Murphy drilled it to left-center and only the slowness of Jose Thole kept a run from scoring.  Sheets navigated the potential disaster by retiring David Wright and didn't allow another runner to reach.

Sheets' fastball was sitting around 91 mph, though he did get it up to 93 mph from what I saw.  What was more key that velocity was that he kept it low and generally on the corners.  He hit Brian McCann's glove with regularity.  He didn't go up in the zone with it very much, though he did get a K against Wright to end the sixth that way. 

Early on, he struggled with his cutter as it had a little too much movement to it and righties easily laid off of it.  Later in the game, he was able to effectively utilize it and when Sheets has all three pitches working like that, there is not a lot a hitter can do.  It's difficult to tell the difference in velocity between his cutter and his changeup so maybe more of his cutters were actually changeups because I don't recall many of them.  That said, they tended to still have a good deal of bite to them, but were closer to the zone to allow hitters to offer at them.

Overall, you love when a pitcher exits a game and your sole complaint is that he should have gotten a bunt down.  Damn good performance.  Now, hopefully the sequel isn't a letdown. 

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