Generally speaking, you can't tell a whole lot about a hitter through the first week and a half of the season, but sometimes you can tell a whole lot about a pitcher. Ben Sheets may be one such arm. Sheets has recorded three starts this year: April 5th, April 10th, and April 15th. Over those three starts (against us, LAnaheim, and Baltimore), he's walked ten and struck out eight in 17 innings. That's bad, and completely unlike the Ben Sheets we knew before.
But that's a small sample size of data. What if we look at something that might be a little more meaningful?
2008: 92.8mph average fastball
2008: 80.1mph average curve
Sheets has been topping out around 93 so far with his heater, well below the 95-96 he used to reach and more in line with his previous average. While we expect pitchers to be a little below 100% this early in the year - especially pitchers who didn't throw at all the year before - Sheets hasn't shown any improvement over his starts, actually seeing his average drop a little bit.
That's cause for some concern, and it has undoubtedly contributed to Sheets being so thoroughly hittable. Throw in the wildness and you've got yourself some real question marks. I know there were many fans - myself included - who wanted to see the M's get involved with Sheets and Rich Harden over the winter, but given their price tags and the fact that both are missing some of their previous effectiveness and velocity (by the way, Harden's down from 92.2 to 90.6), one has to wonder if the front office made the right call after all. While it's still very, very early, and there is plenty of time for things to change course, neither new arm has impressed.
(To complete the divisional rivals thing, Scott Kazmir sucks, but he's lower-profile.)