So maybe adding Gary Sheffield to the lineup won’t disrupt chemistry. Maybe the winning streak coinciding with Sheffield on the DL was coincidence and maybe he isn’t a cancer. And just maybe, the guy can still play.
I was amazed at the number of people who thought there was causation in that Sheffield being on the DL caused the team to play better. That it caused the rest of the offense to perform. That removing the DH from the bench helped the fielders field better and the pitchers pitch better. The team went 3-6 in the first 9 games when Sheffield hit the DL, but many forgot that.
Yes the team went 15-9 in Sheffield’s absence. They also went 10-4 when Clete Thomas was on the DL. They are 14-5 since Ramon Santiago hit the DL and and 14-4 since they lost Jeremy Bonderman. Not to mention the fact that Sheffield was with the team for the long homestand, just not playing. Yet it was Sheffield who was the problem?
Meanwhile in the 3 games since he returned he’s boosted his average by 21 points and his slugging percentage by 58 points. And it hasn’t been inconsequential bolstering of stats. Sheffield has add .605 WPA the last 3 games. In WPA terms .500 is a win. So in 3 games Sheffield has added over a wins worth of win probability.
He’s teamed up with Clete Thomas to become a dynamic late inning duo.
(Doesn’t Clete and Shef scream TV show? Here’s the pitch. It’s a buddy show. It’s a comedy A grizzled African American playing in the twilight of a Hall of Fame career takes a doe-eyed white rookie from Florida under his wing. The veteran isn’t afraid to speak his mind and the rookie doesn’t care. He’s just happy to be there. By day they fight crime while trying to stay out of the crusty old captain’s doghouse. By night they fight interleague opponents and crush their spirits with late inning heroics while trying to stay out of their crusty old manager’s doghouse. Think of it as a Silk Stalkings without any women and more baseball.
In the pilot episode the two investigate a philandering city official and a scandal that could rock city hall. Clete and The Sheff start to get pressured by the mayor’s office to drop the case. But that’s nothing compared to the pressure they experience later that night when the two come up with the scored tied in the bottom of the 9th inning. Can they get the collar? Can they get the win?
Tune in to see Clete set the table and the Sheff clear the dishes.
On the next episode of Clete and the Sheff, everything is left up to Sheff. With the game in the balance can the Sheff take matters into his own hands and stave of disaster [yes]. Can Clete deliver on a promise he made to the Sheff long ago that if he came up with the bases loaded he’d take the walk[yes]. Tune in and find out what happens to Clete and the Sheff next week.)
Joe Posnanski’s blog taught me how to go on tangents like that. But I digress…
What’s most encouraging is that Sheffield isn’t getting lucky with these hits. He’s smoking the ball and having smart at-bats. His 9th inning single on Wednesday night came after he tried to go the other way to advance the runner. This from a guy that is a dead pull hitter. When the ball scooted foul, the Cardinals started to pound him inside and he worked a 0-1 count to a 3 ball count before ripping a single up the middle. Today he had to homer in the 9th inning to keep hopes alive. If it didn’t get it done, it wasn’t getting done.
What’s discouraging is that 3 weeks on the DL seemed to give his shoulder enough time to rest and allow him to become effective again. If only those 3 weeks had come earlier in the year…I don’t know what would have happened. Maybe it was the additional 3 weeks post surgery that helped, or maybe it was the 3 weeks without swinging.
As for the future, or like the next game, I don’t know if this is a blip or a trend. I don’t know whether to look at Sheffield’s numbers when healthy, or when injured, or some amalgamation. A healthy Sheffield is a boon to the lineup. But in looking at the past few years the one thing we do know is that keeping Sheffield healthy is a mighty challenge and there is a decent chance that he will get injured again this season. In lieu of that let’s hope that Sheffield makes hay while he can and that he stays healthy enough to keep Detroit pressuring the leaders in the Central.