Born on July 18, 1978 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Ben Sheets (Ben M. Sheets) has played for the Milwaukee Brewers for his entire 6 year career. He graduated from St. Amant High School and attended Northeast Louisiana University. Sheets throws a fastball in the mid-90s but his bread and butter is his hard-breaking overhand curve, which has been described by many as one of the best curveballs in all of Major League Baseball
At NLU, Sheets was named a first team All-American by Collegiate Baseball and Baseball America in 1999 as well as the Southland Conference's Player of the Year. He once struck out 20 batters in a single game against Louisiana Tech. He was drafted with the 10th pick of the 1999 amateur draft by the Brewers.
Sheets made a name for himself even before he stepped foot on a major league field, leading the United States baseball team to a gold medal victory over Cuba in 2000. Sheets pitched a complete game shutout in the gold medal game, giving up only three hits while striking out five and walking none.
In fact, he gave up only one run in three starts during all of Olympic play, solidifying himself as Tommy Lasorda's ace during the Games.
After spending only two years in the Brewers minor league system, Sheets made his debut on April 5, 2001 for Milwaukee. He finished his rookie season with an 11-10 record and a 4.76 ERA and made his first All-Star appearance.
The next two seasons were forgettable seasons for the Brewers as a team, but Sheets came into form, although his record may not show it. In 2002, Sheets posted a 4.15 ERA and raised his strikeout total to 170, but won just 11 games compared to 16 losses. The following year was much of the same: 4.45 ERA, 154 strikeouts and 11 wins to 13 losses. He was poised for a breakout year, and in 2004, it happened.
Sheets opened the season in less than spectacular form, giving up three earned runs in only 3.1 innings pitched against the St. Louis Cardinals, though the Brewers still won the game, 8-6.
From there until the All-Star Break, Sheets was a completely different pitcher. On May 16, against the Atlanta Braves, Sheets struck out a career-high 18 batters, one of only 25 times ever a pitcher has struck out 18 or more in a single game. By the All-Star Game, Sheets boasted a 9-5 record and his 2.26 ERA was among the league's best and was selected to his second Midsummer Classic.
After that, he hit a speed bump, losing his next five decisions, though his ERA only climbed to a still very respectable 3.10.
But Sheets righted the ship, giving up no more than three earned runs in a game the rest of the way, lowering his ERA to 2.70 despite winning only three of his last seven decisions.
He finished second in the National League in strikeouts (264), third in innings pitched (237.0), third in ERA (2.70), , second in WHIP (.983), second in complete games (5) and first in strikeout to walk ratio (8.25), leading many to believe that his 12-14 record was the only thing keeping him from a serious run at the 2004 Cy Young Award. He finished in eighth.
In 2005, Sheets began struggling to stay healthy. In late April, just two weeks after signing a four-year contract extension, Sheets went on the disabled list with vestibular neuritis, an inner ear ailment that would return during the 2006 season.
In August, Sheets tore the right latissimus dorsi muscle in his back against Atlanta, and despite picking up the win, the tear ended his season. He finished with a 10-9 record, becoming the first Brewer pitcher to record double digit wins in five consecutive seasons since Mike Caldwell did it from 1979-83.
Sheets began the 2006 season on the disabled list, ending his stretch of Opening Day starts. He returned on April 16 against the New York Mets in a 9-3 loss. In early May, it was shoulder tendonitis that landed him back on the DL, and in August, tightness in his pectoral muscle kept him out of action.
Sheets made just 17 starts total in 2006, recording a 6-7 record with a 3.82 ERA and 116 strikeouts in just 106.0 innings pitched.
Things pointed upward immediately in 2007. Sheets made his fifth Opening Day start, and produced a two-hit complete game in a 7-1 Brewers win against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
He left his start on April 25 after just three innings, with many fearing the worst, but he returned for his next start and recorded eight straight quality starts with a 5-1 record and a 2.45 ERA in those eight starts. On June 14, Sheets recorded his 1,000th career strikeout, becoming the second Brewers' pitcher to reach the milestone.
He was 10-4 with a 3.41 ERA before the All-Star Break, earning him his third trip to the Midsummer Classic, but two weeks later, he was back on the DL with a distral sprain in his right middle finger.
He returned for five starts and went 2-1, tying his career high in wins with 12. He was unable to break the 12-win barrier thanks to tightness in his hamstring. Sheets did not return the rest of the season, and the Brewers lost their lead in the NL Central to the rival Chicago Cubs.
- Selected by Milwaukee Brewers in the 1st round (10th pick overall) of the free-agent draft (June 2, 1999 - signed July 30, 1999).