As the offseason began, we heard something that is oh so familiar for Yankee fans. Brian Cashman is looking for rotation help and left-handed relief pitchers. With Boone Logan as the only lefty in the bullpen, Cashman is at least expected to explore the market, both through free-agency and trades, in search of a second lefty. Considering it will be a miracle if Pedro Feliciano pitches for the Yankees at all next season, the Yankees could use some outside help.
After having a poor year in 2010, lefty-reliever George Sherrill was non-tendered by the Dodgers. Atlanta then signed him to a 1 year / $1.2 MM contract for 2011, during which he bounced back with a great season out of Braves ‘pen. Let’s take a look at whether or not he’s worthy of the Yankees’ pursuit…
• Sherrill is coming off a very strong season with the Braves, with a shiny line of a 3.00 ERA / 3.08 FIP / 3.08 xFIP. He posted a 9.50 K/9, 3.00 BB/9 (1.250 WHIP), with a 45.2% GB rate, fitting the Yankees fondness for relief pitchers who get plenty of strikeouts and ground-balls.
• He is extremely strong against lefties, who in his career have only hit Sherrill for .180 AVG / .241 OBP / .275 SLG. That right there is a valuable weapon to have.
• He gets an absolute boatload of swings and misses, with a career Swing/Miss % of 23.1. Sherrill has done this with the combination of a mid-upper 80s fastball (61.5% use in ’11) and a mid 70s mph slider (38.5% use in ’10). Early in his career, he used a big, slow curve as his #2 pitch, but stopped using it after 2008.
• With a 4.26 career BB/9, Sherrill has always had the tendency to walk a lot of batters. However, it is important to keep note that when utilized against left-handers, his career BB/9 is much lower, at 2.44.
• Although he is brilliant against lefties, Sherrill’s career numbers versus righties are a completely different story (.272 AVG / .379 OBP / .414 SLG). They could use him mainly against lefties, but with the season Sherrill had last year, he probably won’t be paid like your average lefty specialist.
• Sherrill has had a history of having inconsistency from year to year. He has had a trend of one bad year followed by a good year, only to be followed by another bad year. The green indicates Sherrill’s ERA from 2004-2011, and in blue is the average. As you can see, it goes up and down and up and down, from year to year. Therefore, how is one to know whether or not 2012 is going to be a year like 2011?
Courtesy of Fangraphs.
• Although Sherrill has stayed relatively healthy throughout his career, he did miss about the last month at the end of this past season with left elbow inflammation. He has made 440 appearances (323.o IP) in his career, so it is always a possibility that elbow inflammation is a sign of wear and tear.
• Sherrill has always been a fairly soft-tosser, but his average fastball velocity dropped from 88.5 to 87.7 mph from 2010 to 2011. Despite that drop in velocity, however, he managed to have a much better year in ’11.
It’s tough to gauge the kind of contract George Sherrill will be receiving as a free agent. He had a great season this past year, but did have elbow problems at the end. Despite some dominant seasons in his career, Sherrill has always been inconsistent from year-to-year, which could impact what he’ll make on the market. I can’t imagine Sherrill receiving a deal of more than two years, but he could very well be the best left-handed relief pitcher on the free agent market. If someone manages to give Mike Gonzalez, for example, a two-year deal, Sherrill would have to receive a very similar contract.
As shown by his general inconsistency, George Sherrill is not a perfect option as an improvement over Boone Logan. However, if the Yankees were able to ink him to a one year deal, I would probably be in favor of the signing. If he could continue his pretty consistent dominance over lefties, he would be an extremely valuable bullpen addition. Unlike trade candidates such as Matt Thornton, the only thing Sherrill would cost is money, an area in which the Yankees can absolutely afford to take a risk.