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Ben Sheets, Beyond the W-L

on 09/23/2005


Despite posting ERA's of 2.70 and 3.33 with great K and walk rates the last two years, Ben Sheets' record during that time has been a combined 22-23. While some would argue a true ace pitcher would have a much better record, starting pitchers have limited control over the result of a game. He is at the whim of this defense and his offense to back up good pitching performances. This article will investigate the offensive-side of Ben Sheets' win/lose record for 2004 and 2005; namely his run support. I will show that Ben Sheet's record is more of a reflection of the Brewers not scoring runs during his starts than his actual pitching performances.


Simply put, the Brewers offense was pathetic in 2004. In that year, the Crew ranked 15th out of the 16 NL teams in runs scored, with 3.94 runs/game average (compared to an NL average of 4.64 runs/game). As bad as the offense was overall, they were even worse in games in which Ben Sheets started. How do we measure the level of ineptitude, however?

One way to measure a team's ability (or inability) to support a pitcher offensively is by using definition of run support. They define it as the team's runs scored (average, per 9 innings pitched) while the pitcher is the pitcher of record. In 2004 Ben Sheets' run support was ranked 44th of 45 qualified pitchers, at 3.53 run/9 innings. That's truly awful.

A more simple definition of run support is the number of runs scored in a game that a pitcher started in. While the Crew was second to last with 3.94 runs/game overall, this towers over the 2.6 runs/game the Crew scored in games that Sheets started in. We can further break that down by seeing what the percentage of starts the Brewers scored a certain amount of runs in for Sheets. We can then compare those percentages to the expected run distribution for a 3.94 runs/game team (04 Brewers) and a 4.64 runs/game team (04 NL average):

Runs Actual Crew Exp. Leag. Exp.
0 21% 12% 6%
1 20% 15% 10%
2 9% 15% 14%
3 15% 15% 15%

The Brewers scored 2 runs or less in 17 of Ben's 34 starts in 2004. That was 50% of his starts! The Brewers should have only scored 2 runs or less in about 42% of his starts. A league average team would have done so in only about 30% of Sheet's starts.


While the Brewer's offense has improved significantly in 2005, their performance in Sheet's starts was only marginally better. The Brewers currently average 4.38 runs/game, about equal to the NL league average of 4.45. Sheet's's run support "improved" to 48th out of 53 qualified NL starters, with 3.73 runs/9 innings.

What about the games in which Ben started in? That improved to 3.95 runs/game; an offensive exposition! Here are the run distribution percentages for 2005 (I didn't bother to compare them to the 05 NL averages, since the Brewers are essentially average):

Runs Actual Crew Exp.
0 14% 6%
1 14% 10%
2 18% 13%
3 32% 14%

The actual percentages of improved from 2004 (as they should be because of an improved 2005 offense) but they still lag behind the numbers of runs the Crew should have scored for Sheets.


Starting pitchers can only control so much in a game and as a result, their win/lose record is often misrepresentative of their actual talents. Ben Sheets has been an outstanding starting pitcher in the last 2 years. His record doesn't reflect that but there really wasn't anything he could do about it. Let's just hope that our ace pitcher can get the run support he deserves in 2006.


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  Are Baseball Teams Streaky Over the Course of a Season?
Barry Bonds, Steroids and Home Run Power
Ben Sheets, Beyond the W-L
If Only They Could Hit in The Clutch?

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