Tale of the Tape: Sheets brings the heat
Ben Sheets, SP, MIL - Sheets gave us his first dominant start of the season when he struck out eight Phillies on Thursday. With great location of his fastball at a velocity of up to 96 mph (a positive indication of shoulder strength), Sheets constantly worked ahead, even aggressively working 0-2 counts. He threw a great curveball which he used as a backdoor pitch for strikes or got hitters to chase it out of the zone.
Felix Hernandez, SP, SEA - I wouldn't be discouraged by King Felix's rocky return to action against the Angels on Tuesday. Lack of command of his two-seam fastball and curveball can be chalked up to rust, most of which was apparent in the first inning. Hernandez ran counts full while throwing mostly fastballs and seemed uncomfortable on the mound. The good news is that he's pain-free and his velocity of his fastball was not an issue, at one point reaching 98 mph. He only threw three sliders; the pitch that was the root of his arm pain.
Tim Lincecum, SP, SF - The third time was the charm, as Lincecum justified the hype with his truly dominant outing versus the Astros. Lincecum got ahead early and often with much better poise and command of his entire repertoire. He ran a four-seam fastball high and inside up to 97 mph, got good downward movement on his two-seam fastball, located his big curveball well, and mixed in a very nice changeup. The four-seamer was the only pitch Astros' hitters got some good contact on.
Ryan Dempster, RP, CHC - It's only a matter of time before Dempster is removed from the closer role. During his ninth-inning implosion Thursday against the Mets, there were plenty of negative signs to witness: complaints about the state of the mound and strike zone calls, bad body language, and shouting matches with manager Lou Piniella and plate umpire Eric Cooper. It wasn't the first time this season that Piniella has stormed out to the mound and demanded that Dempster throw strikes. For your information, Bob Howry was the other reliever warming up in the bullpen before Scott Eyre came in.
Aaron Rowand, OF, PHI - It's not often that a player develops refined plate discipline at 29 years old, but Rowand surprisingly has transformed into a more patient hitter. He's one walk away from equaling his 2006 walk total in less than half the at-bats. I'll admit I was wrong about him in my preseason observations, as Rowand has improved both in his pitch selection and his bat speed. He's still using that odd batting stance, but he's getting set for the pitch with his hands back earlier.
David Wright, 3B, NYM - So all it took was that haircut, huh? Not only has Wright gone opposite field more lately, he's also appeared more relaxed at the plate and letting the ball come to him, especially in two-strike counts. He's batting .406 since the buzz on May 8.
Curt Schilling, SP, BOS - Schilling's struggled with his command against Detroit on Thursday with a four-seam fastball that sailed too high and a splitter that got away. He hasn't seemed comfortable on the mound lately and likely will have to work on mixing in his secondary pitches more; or he'll become too hittable like he was in the second half of last season.
Adam LaRoche, 1B, PIT - It's not obvious yet, but there are some indications that LaRoche is turning it around. He's exhibiting better plate discipline and his two doubles on Tuesday both went to the opposite field. He's starting to see the ball better and isn't rushing his swing.
Mike Cameron, OF, SD - Likewise, Cameron is also seeing the ball better and having more productive at-bats. He's taking better cuts on the ball and the power likely will follow in streaks as the weather warms up.
John Danks, SP, CWS - Danks quietly is maturing into one of the best young left-handers in the American League. He was very impressive against the Yankees on Wednesday, using good command of his curveball to complement a four-seam fastball that reached 94 mph. Over his last three starts, Danks has been attacking the strike zone more and continuing to work at a quick pace. He's also working on a cut fastball to right-handed batters that pitching coach Don Cooper and teammate Mark Buehrle are helping him with.
Jason Marquis, SP, CHC - Marquis has been able to keep his delivery consistent and work low in the zone. He's gone to his off-speed pitches more this season and been smarter about mixing in his pitches. Still, with no big strikeout pitch, he's going to run into future jams if he elevates the ball and gets behind in the count like he did against the Mets on Monday.
Richie Sexson, 1B, SEA - He's seeing more pitches per at-bat, but has been fouling off or grounding out on some hittable pitchers in favorable counts. While his current batting average looks brutal, there's nothing seriously wrong with his swing and it should only be a matter of time before we see him taking better rips in those counts.
Matt Albers, SP, HOU - As a groundball pitcher with no outstanding stuff, Albers needs to keep ball down with his good sinker to be effective, as well as mix in his changeup and curve to keep hitters honest. Albers was shaken early and began overthrowing his fastball against the Reds on May 10 when some close strike calls didn't go his way and hits barely skipped through the gaps.
Jered Weaver had improved command of his fastball and he did a better job of changing speeds and staying economical on Monday against the Rangers. Hunter Pence seems less anxious during his at-bats after receiving some advice recently from teammate Lance Berkman about trying not to do too much at the plate. Scott Olsen has struggled with his fastball location early in the count, which has hurt his ability to go to his great slider, and has sometimes been too emotional when dealing with a tight strike zone. The power might not come around as expected for Aubrey Huff, who is exhibiting some bad habits at the plate, and looks like more of a gap hitter than the power hitter from his 2004 season. Mets' rookie Carlos Gomez hasn't been overmatched in the big leagues, as he's already shown the ability to work the count and go the other way, and exhibit the speed and defense prowess to keep him a bench asset.
Tom Herrera is a sports video logger and a fantasy sports analyst for TalentedMrRoto.com. E-mail him with your questions and comments at THerrera@talentedmrroto.com.