Sherrill & Johnson: A Shaky Save is a Save All the Same

George Sherrill picked up his first Dodgers save on Saturday in a 2-0 win over the Cubs. The lefty pitched in a style familiar to O’s fans, allowing a one-out single and a two-out walk before finally closing the door on the Cubbies in the ninth.

Combined with his final two innings in Baltimore, Sherrill has now tossed 13 2/3 straight scoreless innings and has a 0.87 ERA over his last 20 appearances.

Sherrill’s performance in place of regular Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton, who has blown two saves in the past two weeks, raised some eyebrows in Mannywood. Manager Joe Torre flip-flopped Sherrill and Broxton, with the latter hurler making a rare eighth-inning appearance, a move he attributed to match-ups.

The L.A. Times’ Bill Plaschke offers his take:

Jonathan Broxton, the struggling All-Star closer, was used as a setup man.

George Sherrill, the hot All-Star setup man, was used as a closer.

Roles were reversed, egos were tested, questions were raised, long-term implications were considered.

It looked unusual. It felt unsettled.

Fans gave Broxton a ninth-inning standing ovation in the eighth. Teammates gave Sherrill an eighth-inning embrace in the ninth.

On a team fighting for pitching stability at the start of a stretch run, it seemed just plain wacky.

But it worked. And in the end, the real save went to neither pitcher, but to Joe Torre, the old-fashioned manager unafraid to make a new-age decision.

Meanwhile, Teddy Mitrosolis of MVN offers his perspective on the move, which he says “could bend baseball’s flawed logic”:

For years, the “save” statistic has defied common logic but continues to define the game plan of the manager. Even the casual fan knows that the save isn’t the most veracious statistic to use when evaluating the performance of a closer, but clubs still pour their dollars into the bank accounts of specific relievers because they happen to pitch the ninth inning more often than others.

I don’t think saves are utterly meaningless, and I’m certainly not trying to downplay the importance of a strong closer. Ask the Yankees what Mariano Rivera means to their franchise. But the fact remains that plenty of baseball games are won or lost in the seventh and eighth innings, while the most powerful of arms are spitting seeds from a bullpen lawn chair. Only in the baseball world would that model of efficiency, or lack thereof, make any sense to even a few minds.

If baseball managers are feeling particularly bold they can try multi-inning saves, which would be more retro than revolutionary. Ever wonder how many retired pitchers wish they had played the game today when they would get paid more to do less?

Back home in Baltimore new Orioles closer Jim Johnson is, as Peter Schmuck observes, doing his best Sherrill impression. Sunday’s near-miss performance in the O’s 5-4 victory against Chicago – two hits, one run, tying run left on second base – only added to that feeling.

About Matthew Taylor

Roar from 34, a Baltimore Orioles Blog. Humor. History. Homerism. Since 2006.
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