It's important to be able to admit when you're (kind of) wrong. On Friday, after witnessing Ryan Johnson paint corners and pitch like Glavine, I proclaimed he would be the Sunday starter when all was said and done. While I am still extremely high on Johnson, as he's a pitcher's pitcher - and think he should be our midweek starter this year and will be in the starting three next year (Saturday or Sunday) - Sheffield just wrote his name into the Sunday slot in pen.
In his first SEC bout, Sheffield exuded confidence. His Arkansas counterpart, Trey Killian, was pitching the game of his life. Killian went through the 2-5 batting order murderers row that is Wiseman-Reynolds with nothing but a few warning track scares. Killian was painting two seamers on the corners, mixing speeds, and generally befuddling our hitters through 7 innings of perfection. Sheffield matched him inning for inning, battling through multiple dangerous situations and an Arky lineup who tagged Fulmer for 5 runs on Friday.
Sheffield's Sunday Line
7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, 0 WP, 0 BK, 2 HBP, 7 FO, 9 GO, 103 Pitches
He now sits at 3-0, 1.75 ERA, in 25 and 2/3 innings in 8 appearances (2 starts). On Tuesday v. Quinnipiac, he was effectively wild and won the game pretty easily (6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 3 K in 74 pitches), but looked like he was cruising. He was leaving the ball too high in the zone and just daring the Bobcats to take him yard. They... well, they were never going to pose a challenge for Sheffield, and his effort and focus reflected this.
However, yesterday, he was facing a tough SEC lineup who had taken both of our two aces yard (Fulmer twice) the previous day. He was facing Arkansas' de facto ace (who would have completed the game if he had not been on a pitch count since returning from an arm injury), and as the radio announcers pointed out, he started to show that Carson Fulmer/Sonny Gray bulldog mentality. He was glaring at opposing batters. He was driving with purpose. He was getting the ball and going. He was spotting up curves. He was challenging batters with heat. He was hitting corners. When men reached base, he pitched even better. In his last inning, when he was nearing 30 pitches more than he's ever thrown as a Commodore, he had two men on and one out. His fastball was starting to lose a tick or two, so he pitched to his spot, threw a two seamer outside and induced an inning ending double play.
In short, Killian had an easy 7 innings; Sheffield had to battle. Their results were the same. Give me the battler every time.
Sheffield has now sufficiently proven that he should be our Sunday starter, and that we'll be in pretty good shape on the mound next year after losing Fulmer and Buehler to the draft.
Why Sheffield over Johnson - who pitched out of an even more impressive jam (created by Turd Ferguson's walking the bases loaded in the 2nd on Wednesday), painted corners, and went perfect in 5 innings against Quinnipiac, completely baffling them, and striking out 9? Simple: Sheffield is our next in a long line of power RHP Friday starters. He can be every bit as good as Fulmer and Gray. Johnson is going to be extremely useful for us - this year and moving forward - but it's just slightly more important for Sheffield to be tested by SEC lineups right now. I do hope Corbin gives Johnson the ball as a starter during mid-week games, though. Remember, for most of last year, Walker Freaking Buehler was our mid-week starter. Those innings are extremely valuable, and we'll need at least 4 capable, polished starters when we head into postseason play.
*Make sure to read "Ship Of Fools" at 2pm CT (teaser!) where the drunk me of this past Saturday night completely contradicts this article.