I was planning on writing this post some time ago after Ben Sheets declined arbitration from the Brewers (assuming he was indeed gone) but as time went on and he didn't sign with anybody, the odds of him coming back to the Crew seemed to be increasing by the day. But with his elbow injuring knocking him out for an extended period of time, I figured its time to take a look at Sheets' Brewers' career and compare him to some of the other pitchers in Brewers history.
This will be more of a subjective view than objective (That's what I mean when I say "best"), but I still think it's a good topic of discussion. I also will be ignoring some guys who only played with the Crew for a brief period of time...for purposes of this argument (Obviously, we could just say Don Sutton or CC Sabathia were the best pitchers to ever wear a Brewer uniform...I'll be ignoring Rollie Fingers as well).
Definitely the overall best pitcher of the last 20 years for the team. Golden Boy. 1st round draft pick. Olympic gold medalist. Power fastball with a deadly curve. When he was on, he was unhittable. Pitched over 1400 innings over the last 8 years. Career strikeout-to-walk ratio of 4-1. ERA of 3.72. Even though he got hurt AGAIN down the stretch last year, he still was the 2nd most important pitcher on the first playoff team in 26 years (3 shutouts over 31 starts). His 2004 season was just an absolutely sick statistical season (as I've stated before). If he weren't pitching for one of the worst teams in baseball his W-L record would have shown it. 237 innings, 264 K's v. 32 walks (EGAD!!), ERA of 2.70 and a sub-1 WHIP. Dude was a force to be reckoned with. He fell out of favor with some fans the last few years (I'll include myself in that boat somewhat) with some of his fluky injuries, but even with his injuries he still pitched each year effectively when he was on the mound. The least amount of starts he made was 17 back in 2006.
Best Brewer starting pitcher in the late 80's. Probably the best pitcher to have come from Los Mochis, Mexico (although I did no research to back that claim up). Came STORMING out of the gates in his MLB career with 4 straight years of 200+ innings, sub-4 ERA (two of those sub-3), and minimum of 15 wins (1 year was a 20 game winner). After that, injuries derailed him. People always complain that Sheets didn't earn his money after getting his 4 year deal. Hey...at least Sheets pitched over half the time. Higuera got 13 Million after the 1990 season, then proceeded to tear his rotator cuff and only won 5 games in 4 years after he got his money.
Moose was before my time, but he's one of those guys your Dad or Uncle brings up when talking about the early 80's ("Moose?? Oh yeah...solid pitcher"). Pitched 8 full seasons for the crew. I'll give him the "solid" tag, but was definitely below stud level. He won Game 4 of the 82 ALCS...so...I don't know...he's got that going for him. For whatever reason, he strikes me as a kind of Dave Bush type pitcher (always just sort of there...4th starter type stuff...consistent), but obviously right now Moose had a better career then Bush.
Probably the guy you could make the strongest case for "best" Brewer pitcher besides Sheets. Not a homegrown Brewer, but still played 7+ seasons with the team. Ace of staff. Pitched a RIDICULOUS 293 innings in 1978 with a 2.36 ERA but didn't get a single Cy Young vote (Hey...tough break...check out the season of the guy who won it...good god). While were on the topic of accolades, according to his baseball reference page, Caldwell was never an all-star!? Is this possible? Caldwell's got the postseason experience to boot. Won 2 games in the 82 World Series. I would imagine all the old-school Brewer fans would say he is the best no question. Not sure I could argue it.
Longest tenured Brewer pitcher with 12 seasons under his belt. Another "solid" guy. Close to Moose Haas' level. Had some control issues his entire career (1004 walks v 1191 K's).
From looking through this exercise, I would have to say it comes down to Sheets vs Caldwell...
Go on record in the comments section with your guy. My stance is this, if I needed to throw one of these guys out on the hill for 1 game (height of their careers with no injury problems) I'm taking Sheets. Not sure if that makes him the "best..."