Scouting The Free Agent Market: George Sherrill

Matt Kemp's Contract And The Yankees
Yankees have expressed interest in Grady Sizemore
(Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

As always, one of the Yankees’ goals for the offseason is to secure a reliable left-handed reliever to partner with Boone Logan. Whether or not they actually need a second lefty for the bullpen is up for debate, but they’ve made it pretty clear that finding a second southpaw is important to them.

Other than the fact that he’s left-handed and a free agent, there’s really nothing that makes George Sherrill stand out from the crowd. Yeah, he does have a bit of an interesting back story, playing for four different independent league teams before making his big league debut as a 26-year-old for the Mariners in 2003. He was also part of the five-player package the Orioles received in exchange for Erik Bedard, and has since moved on to the Dodgers and Braves. He is left-handed and breathing, so let’s break down his qualifications…

The Pros

  • Simply put, Sherrill annihilates left-handed batters. He held them to a .256/.275/.333 batting line with 32 strikeouts and just one walk in 81 plate appearances in 2011, and over the last three seasons it’s a .192/.246/.258 line with 80 strikeouts and 17 walks in 252 plate appearances. He just crushes same-side hitters.
  • He has a fairly generic two-pitch repertoire, throwing a mid-to-high-80’s fastball and a low-to-mid–70’s slider. You really don’t have to worry about his losing his stuff or anything like that, there’s not much to lose. Left-handed batters have swung-and-missed at the slider nearly 20% of the time since the start of 2009 (17.6%, to be exact).
  • Sherrill is no stranger to the AL East, having spent a year-and-a-half closing for the Orioles in 2008 and 2009. He won’t require any kind of draft pick compensation to sign, and after completing a one-year deal worth $1.2M with the Braves, he’s unlikely to get a multi-year contract or anything more than a modest raise this offseason.

The Cons

  • In typical lefty specialist fashion, Sherrill is close to unusable against right-handed batters. He held them to a .236/.358/.364 batting line in 68 plate appearances in 2011, but that includes just six strikeouts and ten unintentional walks. Over the last three years, righties have hit .288/.373/.474 against him with 44 strikeouts and 43 walks (nine intentional) in 359 plate appearances.
  • Sherrill is a fly ball pitcher, even against lefties. His career ground ball rate is just 36.1%, and it’s just north of 40% against left-handed batters over the last three seasons. It’s not a surprise that he’s given up one homer for every 12 innings pitched as a big leaguer (0.75 HR/9).
  • Sherrill has been on the disabled list in three of the last five years. He missed basically all of September with elbow inflammation this year, lost two weeks due to back tightness last year, and was sidelined for a month with shoulder inflammation in 2008.
  • He wears his hat with a flat brim, and it looks pretty stupid. Nicknames include “The Brim Reaper” and “Flat Breezy” according to Wikipedia.

I loathe the concept of lefty specialists, but the Yankees obviously place a pretty high value on them judging by all the money they’ve spent on Pedro Feliciano and Damaso Marte in recent years. Dominant lefty specialists can absolutely be valuable pieces of a bullpen, but it’s the guys that are no better than average that really defeat the point and drive me nuts. Those guys are on the roster only because of the hand they throw with, not because they have a chance to be successful. I hate that.

Anyway, Sherrill is one of those lefty specialists with a track record of shutting down lefties, something he’s been doing basically since he broke into the league with the Mariners. That doesn’t guarantee future success though, something the Yankees have learned the hard way the last few seasons. Relievers really are a roll of the dice, especially specialists who live their lives one small sample size to the next. I don’t necessarily endorse a Sherrill signing, but I’d much rather see the Yankees take a shot with him on a one-year deal than someone else on a multiple year pact.

Matt Kemp's Contract And The Yankees
Yankees have expressed interest in Grady Sizemore
  • Jose M. Vazquez..

    If I remember him correctly, he used to throw in the mid nineties when he came up. But like every pitcher (save Nolan Ryan) he lost speed with the years. He may be effective if healthy in the AL east with as many good lefthanded hitters as there are in that division. If the Yankees bite they had better do MRIs on the shoulder and elbow and get a complete physical done on him. The thing is who are you going to boot out of the bullpen? As it is the big 3 can get both lefties and righties out. The need would be bases loaded 5th or 6th inning with Boston’s Gonzalez up and Ortiz to follow. In that scenario it would be good to have him. Boone Logan has been doing a fair job although inconsistent.

  •!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

    “•He wears his hat with a flat brim, and it looks pretty stupid. Nicknames include “The Brim Reaper” and “Flat Breezy” according to Wikipedia.”

    Not sure what the hell this is doing on the “Cons” side of things.

    • Cris Pengiucci

      Everyone knows you need a good nickname to be successful, hence these 2 land on the “Cons” side of things.

    • Bavarian Yankee

      the flat brim was the reason why Joba wasn’t allowed to start anymore. Too embarrassing for the Yanks :D

  • Matt DiBari

    No more lefties. Please no more lefties.

  • Jumpin’ Jack Swisher

    One-year deal? As good an option as any, if that’s what they want.

  • Jose M. Vazquez..

    Here’s food for thought. Being that the Yankees want another lefthanded starter why not stretch out Boone Logan and sign George Sherrill as the LOOGY. Maybe Boonie will work out better as a starter. Just speculation on my part.

    • Dave B

      That’s not a bad thought. Not that it’s the only reason why this would not make sense, but the White Sox apparently moved him to the bullpen after his first season in the minors in 2003. He started 14 games that year in Rookie ball and has not had a start since. I’m just saying it could take awhile to “stretch him out”. It is still an interesting idea.

    • Steve (different one)

      Funny, I had the same idea a few weeks ago. Won’t happen though

  • Hardy

    Looks like an useful player on a one year contract.

  • the Other Steve S.

    So a .256/.275/.333 batting line is annihilation of lefties and a.236/.358/.364 batting line against righties makes him unusable?


    • Mike Axisa

      That’s one year of data, ~80 PA against batters from each side.

      Last three years vs LHB: .192/.246/.258

      Last three years vs RHB: .288/.373/.474

  • Heisenberg

    Buy – One year deal

    Sell – 2+ year deal

  • thenamestsam

    I don’t really see how it’s possible for the Yankees to carry two lefty specialists during the regular season. With two specialists and 3 one-inning-only type guys who Girardi has shown he is very hesitant to over work you’d be placing a really heavy innings burden on the remaining 2 members of the pen.
    Given that, I’d say it only makes sense to have two lefties if at least one of them is versatile – meaning that he’s capable of getting righties out. Boone had a pretty good year against righties, but I’m not sure I’d count on that repeating, and with Sherrill a good bet to get knocked around by opposite-siders as well I’m not sure the two of them make a lot of sense in a bullpen together.

    • Sabes

      This is the key problem…

      You need~450-500innings out of the pen…. with a 7 man pen this is 60-70 innings each which is about normal for a “1 inning guy”… with 1 specialist the long man eats up the extra innings, with 2 lefty specialists you start taxing 1 or 2 guys.

      if they get a lefty specialist, Logan could theoretically be used as a “normal” reliever but let’s face it Girardi adapts to change like a glacier and I just don’t seem him leaving him in like a normal reliever, because lefty relievers just don’t pitch to righties in Girardi’s world (unless the game is a lost cause or the bullpen is fried).

      It’s not like Mo, Ro or So are going to be pulled for a lefty specialist… If Joba comes back reasonably well, he’s another guy you would not probably be pulling and Wade actually has decent #’s versus lefties (changeup)… I still don’t get when the 2nd lefty will be used… lefty specialist matchups in both the 5th and 6th innings? Extra innings?

    • Ted Nelson

      Girardi has been willing to give Logan full innings. I don’t see why that will change.

  • cranky

    Sherrill would be OK and about as exciting as a grilled American cheese sandwich.
    Then again, what middle reliever is exciting?
    Mike Gonzalez is also a FA and is much tougher on lefties. He brings the added advantage, though, of also
    occasionally being very tough on righties.
    But Dontrelle Willis is death to lefties. If he can be convinced that he’s no longer a viable starter and that he should accept a bullpen role, he could be a perfect fit for the Yankees. Death to lefties, very effective for an inning or two against RH or LH, wouldn’t embarrass himself with the very occasional start…..Think out of the box and sign Dontrelle Willis.

    • Dave B

      I love that guy! And he can hit the crap out of the ball so he’s additional bench strength.

  • Matt Montero

    Anyone else think he sorta looks like Bob Wickman?