Pitching Questions: Sheets, Carmona

Ben Sheets is coming back after missing a full year due to injury.  Fausto Carmona is riding high after great spring numbers, but is also coming off of two straight disappointing seasons.  What can one outing tell us about these pitchers?  Not everything, but there here are a few notes to keep an eye on.

Ben Sheets made his A’s debut on Monday going five innings and allowing two earned runs.  His command was not there as he walked four batters and was up in the zone with his fastball all night.  The velocity on his fastball averaged about 91.3 mph, a drop of over one mph from his 2008 average.  He did, however, hit a top velocity of 93.5 mph.  It may take Sheets some time to settle in, so keep track of how his velocity looks the next couple of outings. 

The biggest number to me was the number of curveballs Sheets threw.  Back in January, when Sheets signed with the A’s, I wonderedif he would use his big curveball, his strikeout pitch, as often coming back from an elbow injury.  Of Sheets’ 94 pitches thrown Monday, 50 were fastballs (53%) and 38 were curveballs (40%).  That number gives me hope that once Sheets settles in he will once again be an effective fantasy starter.
Fausto Carmona made his much anticipated first start of the season Wednesday after a sterling spring.  Fantasy owners were watching, wondering if he was on his way to becoming the pitcher he was three years ago.  Carmona went six innings allowing three earned runs.  Not bad, but not great either. 
His pitches were down in the strike-zone for the most part, but he only generated eight ground balls out of 17 balls put in play, which is less than would be expected from such a groundball pitcher.  Another not so great sign was the six walks to only one strikeout.  To be fair, Carmona wasn’t getting a favorable strike-zone, but six walks is six walks.     
All-in-all there were more bad signs than good signs.  We already know that Carmona is not going to get many strikeouts, so he is a risky pitcher anyway.  It seems very unlikely that he puts up numbers similar to his 2007 season, but he could post an ERA around 4.00 with a little help from his defense.  However, that’s the biggest problem when it comes to Carmona’s value; it is reliant on things that Carmona himself cannot control.