2018 Rating: 5.64
2017 Rating: 6.85
2018 Performance: 15 G, 16.1 IP, 0-0, 1.65 ERA, 4.08 FIP, 267 ERA+, 9.4 K/9, 5.4 BB/9, 1 HR ,
0.5 bWAR, 0.1 fWAR
2018 Salary: Pre-arbitration
2019 Status: Pre-arbitration
After a successful September call-up in 2017 it looked like Jimmie Sherfy was a lock to fill one of the bullpen vacancies in 2018. Alas, it was not meant to be. After making the playoffs in 2017, Mike Hazen and the rest of the front office made the decision to take another run at the playoffs in 2018. Part of the plan for the playoff run was to rely on established arms, rather than turn to the minors. This resulted in Fernando Salas and Jorge De La Rosa claiming the two vacant bullpen slots. Although somewhat surprising at first, the decision did not feel like a terrible one - at least, not at the outset.
Before April was out, things were already becoming unsettled with Arizona’s pitching. By the beginning of May, the team had already started the roster juggling to bring up arms from the minors. Due to injuries, these were primarily starters, but the bullpen was already struggling. Yoshihisa Hirano, Brad Boxberger, and Archie Bradley, along with a bit of Andrew Chafin, were the only arms out of the bullpen that could be reliably counted upon. As a result, their innings were piling up in a hurry. Arizona fans waited patiently for the call to Reno that would bring one or more of Silvino Bracho, Jake Barrett, and Jimmie Sherfy to the majors to replace Salas and/or De La Rosa. Instead, Sherfy was brought up for a total of two innings across three appearances in mid-May before being sent back to bide his time in Reno until the end of June. On June 30, Sherfy returned to the bigs, pitched two innings, allowing one run, then packed his bags and returned to Reno
Once Salas’ leash finally reached its limit at the end of July, it seemed Sherfy and the others might finally get their shot. However, the only minor league arm getting any consideration was Silvino Bracho, who might have been best served just getting a sleeper camper for his regular commutes back and forth from Reno. As July wore on, the bullpen became an identifiable problem for the team. It was clear that trio of Bradley, Hirano, and Boxberger were tiring. The rumblings to make some moves to bring in fresh arms became much louder in the Valley of the Sun. Finally, Hazen did bring in fresh arms. But still, not from Reno. Instead, he turned to the trade market and made deals for Matt Andriese, Jake Diekman, and Brad Ziegler. By this time, no one could figure out what was going on with the pitchers in Reno. It seemed as though the team was bending over backwards to avoid bringing up Barrett or Sherfy, despite both of them having both options available and some major league success.
Finally, after rosters expanded in September, Sherfy got the call that would bring him up to stay. He made 11 appearances in the month of September and held opponents to .143 batting average while posting a 1.46 ERA. Sherfy’s success in the month of September, eight appearances of which came against teams playing in October, served as something of a condemnation of the organization’s handling of the bullpen, going all the way back to April. Would Sherfy’s presence have helped to lighten the load on the core three? Would Sherfy having minor league options have helped to keep the bullpen fresher. Would removing Salas sooner have saved a few more games? Of course, we will never know, but they are legitimate questions to ask of a team that had an identifiable weakness in the bullpen in the first month of the season, but still managed to remain in first place until September.
At the end of last season, Sherfy’s outlook was that he would be part of the opening day bullpen. Now, heading into 2019, the team currently has three obvious bullpen vacancies. With the mandate to trim payroll, it would seem like Mike Hazen would have even more incentive to finally dip into the minor league ranks and promote some of his relievers that are waiting in the wings. Sherfy should be at the top of that list. As we saw with 2018 though, anything is possible. He could still wind up starting the season in Reno. For my money though, I expect he makes the 25-man roster out of spring.