The Atlanta Braves and LHP George Sherrill agreed to a one-year, $1.75 million contract yesterday.
Sherrill fills Braves GM Frank Wren's need for an experienced left-handed pitcher and solidifies the bullpen.
Although Sherrill is coming off one of the worst seasons in his seven-year career, this isn't the first time Wren has taken a chance on a veteran reliever.
Last year, Wren boldly pursued and signed 40-year-old Takashi Saito and 38-year-old Billy Wagner.
Wagner produced one of the best seasons in his 16-year career, posting a career-low 1.43 ERA. He also struck out 104 batters, his fourth best total, and his highest since 2003 (105). Wagner and Saito played a significant role in the Braves' first playoff appearance since 2005.
Sherrill is the second veteran that Wren has added in the past week in an attempt to create a balance between young and old.
Scott Linebrink and Sherrill are question marks, but Sherrill certainly brings about the biggest concern.
While it has never been his strong suit, the one-time All-Star struggled mightily with his command last season. In addition to issuing 24 free passes in 36 innings pitched, Sherrill may as well have been throwing batting practice. Opposing hitters posted a .311/.406/.500 (AVG/OBP/SLG) line against him.
The most alarming thing about last season is the drop in velocity on his fastball. Sherrill's fastball dropped from 90.2 to 88.6, according to FanGraphs (via The Hardball Times). His changeup actually increased in velocity, going from 81.9 in 2009 to 86.7 last season.
Still, a silver lining from his forgettable 2010 campaign can be found. He was still just as effective against left-handed batters as usual. Sherrill held them to a .192 batting average, while striking out 19 in 20.1 innings pitched.
Sherrill also has quite a bit of experience closing games out, though I can only see Sherrill attempting to close the door as a last resort. His 56 saves in 75 chances shouldn't be overlooked, though.
Sherrill shouldn't be anything more than a lefty specialist (LOOGY), appearing in games only to handcuff left-handed batters and nothing more. It would be wise to keep it that way.
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