POTD George Sherrill, LHP


Q.  What happened back in 2010 with the Dodgers?

A.  He lost his fastball and, in BaseballHQ's words, "it all came crashing down."

For those who just joined us, here is George's career path to date:

2006-07 Pleasant surprise with M's
2008-09a Orioles' closer
2009b-10 Destroyed in LAD.  2010: 50/95 RH batters get on, 3K, 8BB vs RH
2011 Using same stuff as in 2010, is top LOOGY in ATL

Saying that Sherrill's fastball dropped from 90 mph to 88 mph doesn't do the problem justice.  His fastball has been flat, lifeless, just a beach ball for RH's.  Here, take a look at this video.  Ignore the fact that he got an out; look at how straight, static, and hittable the pitch is.


Q.  Was the fastball better in 2011?  

A.  No, it wasn't any better.  Here is a June 2011 fastball, for example.  Despite the strikeout, the pitch is DOA.


Q.  So how did he bounce back?

A.  One time the KJR deejays were arguing that Dave Krieg was as good a QB as John Elway.  In that particular year, the stats were pretty even between them.

A very intelligent Broncos fan called up, gritting his teeth.  Great caller.  He said, biting off the words, "The Seahawks run. To set up the pass.  The Denver Broncos pass.  to set up.  The run."

His point being, Elway was equalling Krieg's numbers despite the fact that there was incomparably more pressure on his game.  Give Elway the Seahawks' circumstances and he'd have been lighting it up.

History bore the caller out, I think...


Fans tend to have an easy time telling you that NFL Team X is running for 4.2 yards per carry.  They have a much harder time telling you how much pressure there is, or isn't, on that team's game.

Baseball fans have an easy time telling you that MLB Pitcher X is getting +0.5 runs on his fastball.  They have a much harder time telling you how much pressure there is, or isn't, on that pitcher's fastball -- whether the hitters know it's coming or not.


In 2008-09, Sherrill's fastball was lively and he threw the FB 70-73% of the time, with great run values.  He relied on the pitch, the batters knew it was coming, and it was a bread-and-butter pitch for him.

In 2010, with the lifeless fastball, he ran a -2.13 run value on it (!!) and he desperately threw more and more sliders.  By the end of the year, he was throwing only 59% fastballs and 32% sliders.  Nobody throws 32% sliders.  That's a Bedard ratio, the ratio you use when you're a 2-pitch guy with the best curve in baseball, and you pitch off the curve.

Then in 2011, Sherrill went to an unpossible 61-39 ratio.  And you can be very sure that he was nibbling with the fastball.

Notice that Sherrill's run value on the slider went way down.  You are now equipped to tell us why, right?  It wasn't that the slider was a worse pitch.  It was that he slid all the game pressure over to his breaking pitch.


Bottom line:  Sherrill learned how to pitch without a fastball.  He throws "mostly" sliders for strikes, and he nibbles and picks with the fastball.

Also, the Braves managed him much better than Joe Torre did.  Am sure that Sandy will back us up on that one.


Q.  Does that leave him as a good reliever?

A.  He certainly will never close again with that flat 88 fastball.  Nor will he knock out complete 7ths or 8ths like Arthur Rhodes.

But Jesse Orosco pitched until he was 46.  Actually, for most of his career Jesse wasn't limited to a LOOGY role, but the seven years after age 40, his being lefty didn't hurt.   Check Jesse's 1997 pitching splits.  That's what the 2012 World Champion Mariners are hoping for.


Hey, guess what George Sherrill's K/BB was last year against lefties?

In 2011, George Sherrill struck out 32 lefties and walked exactly 1.  Will have to check my Bill James Historical Abstract, but I think that a 32:1 CMD ratio indicates effectiveness on a pitcher's part.


If I'm the Mariners, I'm using George Sherrill as an Orosco-type LOOGY, and am being V-E-R-Y careful about RH matchups.  He gets the 91 fastball back, we'll talk.  Until then, you've got an Orosco.  Great move on the M's part, if and only if Eric Wedge doesn't get frisky with the RHB matchups.

This ballclub was in dire need of a $1.1M Jesse Orosco.  :- )



Dr D



Barely struck out more than he walked, but the BABiP that had been .430 the previous year sank to .229 last year.  It could be he relearned how to pitch to righties, accepting that he was going to walk them often to see another lefty while allowing them to go fishing and get themselves out.  I think he could still pitch whole innings, and he better, as I said last year, Eric Wedge likes his guys to get 3 outs(sort the table by #games pitched


But still, if you look at his 6 K's and 11 BB's against them... you wouldn't dream of letting Ian Snell pitch with an 0.55 CTL, right?
Don't like the look of that fastball, er, slowball, but like you say, they tend to re-learn their survival techniques as they lose their stuff...
Georgie's slider isn't even super dependable - some days vicious, other days kinda floating as he gets under it ...
Still and all, he's got a real deceptive motion and he throws strikes, so as LOOGYs go, he's in the upper 50% ...
the real UP scenario for me is that he comes to camp with life in his arm, hitting 90, 91, 92, and becomes the M's best reliever for $1M...


I feel like signing George Sherrill is another sign that Zduriencik plans to compete, otherwise, why sign him at all, why not give the spot to a rookie or a journeyman for free and see if you can't turn them into something.  The only way George Sherrill works in a non-competition year, is as a mid-season trade.  At his height, closing for Baltimore, he netted a couple AA prospects, as a LOOGY, maybe you could turn him into a  all talent/no polish low-A prospect, which you would be similarly likely to accomplish with your theoretical journeyman alla David Aardsma, Chris Ray, David Pauley, Shawn Kelly, Jamey Wright, Tom Willhemsen...the Mariners have had a decent amount of success with the scrap heap/out of nowhere rookies.  If anything they have higher odds on being able to assemble a bullpen from nothing this year, and if they were just going to phone it in, George Sherrill is 3 times more than you're paying the bunch of LOOGYs you've already invited to camp


And that's about the most extreme LH % I ever remember seeing for a lefty reliever.  The other manager pinch-hits, you get the L-R-L scenario you mentioned, etc.  They ain't going to be able to get his LH ratio higher than about 60%, whatever they do.


At least as of Dec. 18, 2011.
Punting a season in March, that's mostly a blogger exercise.  Bloggers have nothing at stake and GM's don't think like bloggers do.
I just saw some commenter at LL who argued that the M's should acknowledge a 3rd-place-at-best reality for the next eight (8) years, and avoid the FA market for that reason.
Susan:  "I was just trying to be smart!"
Peter:  "No.  You were trying to be clever."


And I was surprised when I looked at his splits that indeed, he topped out around 60% lefties faced.  I used to watch every Dodgers game I could, and listen to the rest on the radio except for when I was in school.  It seemed like every time Orosco showed up it was for 1/3 inning, 2/3 inning, I honestly thought his ratio would be lik 92-5.

positivepaul's picture

Certainly his pitching style has changed - and he's dealt with some injury issues that might've taken some zip off his fastball. Thing about his stint in Atlanta, though, is that he was warmed up in nearly every game. Warming up and not coming into a game can harm a pitcher, especially if it's done frequently. 
A cheap veteran with some closing experience (granted, his splits might be too wide to let that happen again) in a big park? Yes! The Killer Peays! (Shawn Kelley & GS52 being from the same college - Austin Peay State - and where Zduriencik got his Masters degree as well)...
Also check out his groundball/flyball trends on Fangraphs. I like eeet a lot! 


If you could get batFx data on verticle angle of batted ball off bat, get more granular than ground ball...line drive...fly ball...pop fly for balls in play. It would give you a more nuanced sense of a batters skill in squaring up the ball and how many easy outs they are likely to make; conversely, it would give you a more detailed idea of how good a pitcher is at messing with hitters. We have macro data now, but not all ground balls and fly balls are created equal. Some are more susceptible to easy outs while some have a higher likelihood of being hits.
It would be revealing to see a stat that distinguishes good groundball outs from dangerous groundball outs from pitchers' perspective. It would also help us see if this clarifies BABIP statistics. Perhaps two groundball pitchers A & B are really different pitchers with one whose game tends towards groundballs through the infield (because more of them are sharply hit but not line drives) while the other guy's game tends towards the three-hopper. 
Maybe this already exists and I just don't know it, since I'm not a guy who hangs out at Fangraphs.


Probably there are quite a few readers who weren't aware that after the 1999 season,
1.  Pat Gillick acquired his old friend Arthur Rhodes,
2.  Told Lou Piniella not to warm him up unless Rhodes was going to be brought into the game, and
3.  In 2000, Rhodes' BB rate dropped from 7.6 per game to 3.8 per game, with Rhodes' HR rate also getting cut in half.
Rhodes became one of baseball's great relief pitchers, and an MVP of the 116-win M's, apparently based on Gillick's secret recipe.
I doubt that Hardball Times has a study on bullpen warmups and Y2 ERA :- ) but Pat Gillick was more than 60 years old at the time, and he thought that for many RP's, the warmup routine was a major key.
Wouldn't that be something if Sherrill's situation were similar, and he was set for a big 2012 based on Wedge simply not tiring him out in the bullpen.
Good stuff Paul.


Last month, we wrote up a series that volleyed off Mike Fast's work.
Fast got ahold of some batFX data.  He didn't mosh vs. angle off the bat as such, but we discovered that many pitchers give up faster and slower BIP's, which is another (better!?) way to measure the same thing.
I mean, if you know that Silva and Batista give up 74-75 mph BIP's on average, versus Harden and Peavy giving up 66-67 mph, that addresses your general question plus some others, don' it?
Just tell me what MPH Jason Vargas gives up off the bat, vs. Doug Fister, and I'll take that over the GB/FB/whatever data any day :- )

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