We're now just 86 days away from Major League Baseball's Opening Day. To tie in to our countdown I decided to look at a day in the career of former Brewers ace Ben Sheets. It's been a while since Sheets threw a ball for the Brewers but he remains a fan favorite. I think it's because he's not just a former Milwaukee ace, he's the last true ace the Brewers have had.
The now 37 year old was originally drafted by the Brewers in the first round of the 1999 draft. He was the 10th overall pick. It turned out to be a tremendous pick as he became one of the best pitchers in franchise history. But some might forget that things began slowly for Sheets at the major league level.
His first season--2001--saw him end with a 4.76 ERA and 4.83 FIP. The next two seasons saw marginal to moderate improvements, but they still weren't what one might have hoped for from the tenth overall pick. He did make 34 starts and threw over 215 inning in each of those seasons. But he had a 4.15 ERA in 2002 and a 4.45 ERA in 2003. That was still slightly above league average production however.
The following season is when he had his breakthrough accumulating an 8 fWAR with a 2.70 ERA in 237.0 IP. Unfortunately that was the last season he was fully healthy. And event though he was always effected when healthy enough to pitch, he never reached the 200 innings plateau ever again.
But enough of the career breakdown, let's look at Ben Sheet's 86th strike out. He earned that K in his first major league season. He earned a total of 94 strike outs that year. His 86th came on September 26th against the Arizona Diamondbacks. This was a wild one.
Sheets himself was okay. He went 4 innings and allowed 2 runs. He gave up 8 hits and one walk. His 86th career strike out just so happened to be his only K of the game! The batter was outfielder Reggie Sanders. He was in his 11 major league season and doing rather well for himself. He hit 263/337/549 that year and was worth 3.0 fWAR.
Jeremy Burnitz, Richie Sexson, and Mark Loretta played in that game for the Brewers. Henry Blanco caught that game. I had forgotten even played for the Brewers. Devon White also played in that game. I didn't remember him, and I'm sure most of you don't as well. He only played for the team in 2001 which happened to be the last season of his 17 year career. I only mention him because I was curious who was the oldest member of that team and it was him. He's 53 now and was 38 then.
There was actually one other former Brewers of note. In fact he's still with the team. Only in that game he was playing for Arizona. As I'm sure you've guess that was now manager Craig Counsell. He only got one hit in that game--a single--and walked once--intentional--but managed to score 3 runs--later reached base on an error at third base.