Ben Sheets (born July 18, 1978 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana) is a Major League Baseball pitcher who currently plays for the Milwaukee Brewers baseball team. He possesses one of the best fastballs in the Major Leagues, a four-seam fastball clocked between 94-98 MPH, a big, sharp breaking curveball in the 80-83 MPH range, and a changeup. He also has great command of his three pitches.
Sheets graduated from St. Amant High School and went to college at Northeast Louisiana University on a baseball scholarship. He once struck out 20 batters in a game against Louisiana Tech, a feat he would almost equal later in his MLB career.
Drafted by the Brewers in the first round (10th overall) of the 1999 draft, he made his professional debut with the Ogden Raptors of the Pioneer League. On August 2 against the Idaho Falls Chukars, Sheets struck out eight batters while allowing just one hit through five innings. He didn't stay very long in Rookie ball, being promoted to Class A Stockton of the California League on August 9. In his seven pro starts that year, Sheets averaged a strikeout ratio of 10.09 batters per nine innings. His carrear stats with the Brewers are, 55 wins, 62 losses, 3.83 ERA, and 982 1/3 innnings pitched.
In 2000, Sheets was on the United States national team for the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. He pitched 22 innings, struck out 11 batters, walked one, and gave up 11 hits during the tournament, and face off against Cuban ace Pedro Luis Lazo in the Gold Medal Game, giving up three hits -- all singles -- with two by Omar Linares, advancing just one runner to second base for the entire game. Sheets gave up no walks, struck out five, and 16 of 27 outs were ground ball outs, in a 4-0 complete game win.
By 2001, Sheets had been promoted to the Brewers' starting rotation and went 11-10 that season with a 4.76 ERA. By 2004, Sheets began establishing himself as a strikeout threat, throwing 264 to finish third in the category in the majors behind Randy Johnson and Johan Santana. Also in that season he only had 32 walks to go along with the 264 k's. He also struck out 18 batters in a May 16 game against the Atlanta Braves.
Between 2003 and 2004, something transformed Sheets into what seemed a completely different pitcher. After posting an ERA above 4.00 in his previous three seasons, Sheets compiled a dominant 2.70 ERA and 0.98 WHIP (Walks and Hits per Inning Pitched), which ranked him fourth and third, respectively, among all starting pitchers in the Major Leagues. Most impressively, Sheets amassed 264 strikouts while allowing only 32 walks, giving him a strikeout-to-walk ratio of over 8:1, far and away the best in the Major Leagues.
Most agree that this newfound success was caused by an increase in velocity on Sheets' already potent fastball. During 2004, his fastball was being clocked regularly at 96 to 98 miles per hour. This added velocity came about primarily as a result of improved health. In 2003, Sheets had been troubled by bulging discs in his lower back, but these problems subsided in 2004. New upper-body workouts also contributed to Sheets' increase in velocity.
In addition, Sheets has struggled with health issues relating to his inner ear, at times plaguing him with dizziness and a loss of balance. These problems forced Sheets onto the disabled list (DL) for a period of time in the beginning of the 2005 season. Sheets started the 2006 season the DL but quickly came off it only to pitch 3 starts before going on the DL again with shoulder Tendanitis. It is unknown when he will return to the pitching rotation.
Sheets has also expressed interest in fantasy baseball, much to the delight of the millions of Americans who participate in this popular hobby. Not without a sense of humor - and certainly not lacking the ability to poke fun at his own struggles - Sheets commented during the early part of the 2005 season, "Next year in the fantasy drafts, I'm going to go in the last round...Fantasy owners frickin' hate me right now. That's all I hear about. 'You're on my Fantasy team, you're killing me!'"1 (Sheets' ERA for the 2005 season ended up at a perfectly respectable 3.33.)
Sheets owns a stake in the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League.
Note 1: http://www.daytondailynews.com/sports/content/sports/daily/0606fantasy.html