I generally make it a rule to try and avoid reading the Astros Mailbag on Astros.com because reading the reader questions generally leads to a crushing blow to my faith in humanity. I will preface the following with: I generally have always found Alyson Footer's responses to be intelligent and handle the idiocy with which she is presented in a very calm and professional manner. I also admire the fact that she really doesn't shy away at taking shots at the organization. However, this morning, when I caved trying to find something to write about and read the mailbag I became alarmed.
In response to a question about whether we'd be able to "Go after Derek Lowe or settle for Ben Sheets," Footer responded with:
I can see the Astros pursuing Sheets, but with his injury history, they need to proceed with caution. He missed a total of 35 starts over three seasons from 2005-07 with injuries, and while he had a good year in '08, he ended it with a serious elbow injury that kept him from pitching in the postseason. Apparently he's taking the rest-and-relaxation route instead of surgery, and I fear if the Astros sign him, they'll end up losing him to elbow surgery within a year.
The emphasis was added by me, but hopefully it conveys the message. I can only think of two things to explain this:
- This is Footer's own opinion and something she didn't research very well before she responded.
- This is the Astros new company line: that Sheets had a serious injury, and deferred surgery.
Sheets, though averaging just 3 pitches more per start than Oswalt, has amassed 61,290 PAP (pitcher abuse points) . To date, and in just 2 IP less, Roy has amassed a scant 21,000 by comparison. It's a ludicrous gap, which speaks to Ned Yost's utter abuse of Sheets and the fact that Sheets was not utilized intelligently by the Brewers this year.It also begs the question: would Ben Sheets have forearm tightness if he only had 21,000 PAP? I don't think that he would. The research that has gone into PAP has yielded the finding that injuries are highly correlated with mounting levels of PAPs -- unless you're Tim Lincecum, Randy Johnson, or CC Sabathia (i.e. freaks).
I do think you're on the right track here in that Sheets is risky and that risk was exacerbated by his long stints. I think it's a combination of both, but it's notable that most of his injuries have not been in his arm, unless you use the broadest sense. I'd be willing to say that mechanical problems were exacerbated by heavy usage that left him fatigued. I'd also say that he has a steep fatigue curve, dropping off quickly rather than slowly declining.