The Braves added to their bullpen at the Winter Meetings on Wednesday, inking lefty George Sherrill to a $1.2 million dollar contract for the 2011 season. Sherrill was last seen working the middle innings for the Dodgers, and he has previously closed for the Seattle Mariners and the Baltimore Orioles.
Sherrill had four moderately productive seasons from 2006-2009, averaging just under 1.0 WAR per season. The wheels fell off for Sherrill in Los Angeles last year, though, as he posted a 6.69 ERA and a similarly horrible 5.20 FIP en route to a -0.4 WAR season. The decline came all across the board: his strikeout rate dipped to 6.1, and his walk rate and homer rate climbed to 5.9 and 1.0 respectively.
His struggles against right handed hitters are even more stark. Sherrill was never a righty stopper – his career ERA against them is 4.78, and his FIP is a full run worse at 5.81. Even by those standards, Sherrill was awful against righties in 2010. A staggering 51 of the 95 right handers he faced reached base, including 14 walks and 13 extra base hits. Overall, righties hit .427/.516/.707 against Sherrill. Even with some amount of poor BABIP luck accounted for, it’s pretty clear that Sherrill cannot handle right handed batters.
Sherrill can be useful against lefties – they hit .192/.286/.288 off him last year and .167/.235/.265 for his career. If Sherrill is truly used as a Left handed One Out GuY, he could be productive for Atlanta. However, he simply cannot be allowed to face a righty in a high or even medium leverage situation. Sherrill would be a fine pickup, if teams weren’t limited to 25 men on the active roster. However, it will likely be very difficult for Fredi Gonzalez to properly balance keeping the rest of his bullpen healthy and properly using Sherrill. Particularly in the National League, where reliever substitutions happen quite often in the late game due to pinch hitting, Sherrill’s skills just don’t seem to provide enough given his limitations and the scarcity of roster spots.
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