Below, you will find the ten longest regular-season streaks at the start of anyone’s career as a Diamondbacks, without allowing a run. As you can see, Sherfy’s streak - which is still active, remember - is already solidly in the top ten. Additionally, some of the players ahead of him already had major-league experience before coming to Arizona. If you just want debutants, you need to cross of Matt Reynolds and Aaron Small. And if you look at innings, rather than games, Jimmie Sherfy is in front of LOOGY Joe Paterson, whose 19 game streak involved him facing only 40 batters. It’ll be fun to see how far Sherfy can extend the streak in 2018.
Scoreless streaks, to start as a Diamondback
Coming into the year, he was ranked #10 by Minor League Ball, John Sickels saying, “even small improvement in command could take him a long way.” We got rather more than that. Across 2016, Sherfy walked 3.9 batters per nine innings: with the Aces in 2017, he cut that figure to less than half, walking just 10 batters in 49 innings there, a rate of 1.8/9 IP. He struck out 61, for a 11.2 strikeout rate which helped keep his ERA down to 3.12 - no mean feat in the Pacific Coast League and pitching in Reno. That kept him on the team’s radar, and Jimmie finally got the call in mid-August, coming up with Braden Shipley when J.J. Hoover and Silvino Bracho were optioned to AAA.
His debut came in mop-up, with the team down by eight in the seventh inning, but Sherfy didn’t phone it in, working a perfect frame with two strikeouts. His second appearance, the following day, was rather more high-leverage, working the ninth in a tied game. Again, he faced the minimum and got his first major-league W, as his offense walked the D-backs off against the Mets. He then completed the trifecta of firsts in his third game, tossing a two-inning save against the Rockies in Coors Field on September 3rd (below). After his first four major-league games, Jimmie had pitched five innings, not allowing a hit or a walk, while striking out six batters.
Though a small number of hits and walks inevitably followed, the zeroes didn’t stop. Sherfy finished the regular season having tossed 10.2 scoreless innings, giving up only five hits and two walks, with nine strikeouts. He pitched his way onto the post-season roster, and joined Archie Bradley as the youngest pitchers on our playoff squad, both being 25 years old during our October campaign. While that didn’t go so well for Sherfy, mostly thanks to a BABIP of 1.000 in Game 2 of the Division Series against Los Angeles, the experience will be useful for Jimmie. Hopefully, it won’t be his last taste of post-season baseball as a Diamondback.
“I’ve watched Jimmie on a different level for a long time. There’s an ease to what he’s doing, a mound presence and fearlessness. All good major-league players aren’t afraid to make a mistake. He just lives his life that way and it shows on the mound.”
— Torey Lovullo
It will be interesting to see how the team opts to use Sherfy in 2017. It seems likely he will be seeing his share of high-leverage innings, as we restructure the bullpen after the departure of Fernando Rodney. Depending on how manager Lovullo wans to use the more experienced Archie Bradley and Brad Boxberger, Jimmie could end up seeing some save situations, especially if that pair are unavailable due to previous use. Indeed, when reviewing Sherfy’s 2017 (albeit before the arrival of Boxberger), Makakilo recommended the young pitcher should be the closer for 2018.
That would certainly be a change, and largely uncharted territory in Arizona. For the Diamondbacks haven’t had a rookie reach double-digits in saves since Brian Bruney picked up a dozen in 2005, and no rookie has ever saved even 20 games here. But Lovullo’s comments above indicate a high level of faith in Sherfy, and his performances over the last six weeks of the 2017 regular season gave no cause to think otherwise. Whether closing or not, it looks like Jimmie will be a significant part of the team’s bullpen next year - and it may not be long before he becomes the man for the most crucial, ninth-inning situations.