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2019 Arizona Diamondbacks Player Reviews #28: Jimmie Sherfy

#FreeSherfy was a rallying cry this season. But when it happened, the results weren’t what we wanted to see.

St Louis Cardinals v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images
  • Rating: 5.17
  • Age: 27
  • 2019 Stats: 18.1 IP, 5.89 ERA, 4.63 FIP, 1.527 WHIP, 0 fWAR -.02 bWAR
  • 2019 Salary: League Minimum, Pre-Arbitration
  • 2020 Status; Pre-Arbitration, Out of Options


Drafted in the 10th Round of the 2013 draft. Jimmie Sherfy has largely excelled in the minors, posting a 3.59 ERA. That figure would be even lower if you excluded a rough 2014 and 2015, when he had ERAs of 4.59 and 6.17. Regardless, Sherfy has also had excellent strikeout numbers throughout the minors, with a 11.09 SO/9 innings, and a solid 3.07 SO/BB ratio.

Sherfy made his major league debut in 2017, when he appeared in 11 games. Sherfy pitched 10.2 scoreless innings, with just five hits, two walks, and nine strikeouts. In 2018, Sherfy appeared in 15 games and pitched 16.1 innings. Sherfy put up a 1.65 ERA, with 3 runs allowed on 8 hits, 10 walks, 17 strikeouts, and one home run allowed. All told, coming into the 2019 season, he had an ERA+ of 465(!), and was expected to be a major contributor to the Arizona bullpen.

2019 Review

It wasn’t to be, and 2019 proved a step down for Sherfy. He started out the season pitching for AAA Reno, and pitched most of the year in the minors. Sherfy appeared in 38 games in the minors, and 17 games for the big league club. While Sherfy’s 3.60 ERA and 3.71 FIP for AAA Reno is a definite improvement over his 5.89 ERA and 4.63 FIP that he put up in the majors, his xFIP tells a intriguing story; his xFIP in Reno was 4.75, worse than his 4.62 xFIP for the Majors.

While sandwiched by a pair of call-ups where he did not appear, Jimmie first saw major-league action in mid-May, taking the place of Jon Duplantier, and seemed to be getting stretched out. All five appearances there were longer than one inning, He seemed fine, allowing one earned run over 9.2 innings, though did walk five batters. After his first three scoreless appeaerances, Sherfy had an 0.82 ERA through his first 29 major-league games, a franchise record (the previous best being Bret Prinz’a 1.00). But he was sent back to the Aces late in May, and wouldn’t take a major-league mound again until after rosters expanded in September.

This became a bit of a cause célèbre on the SnakePit as many, apparently lesser relievers were called up and used by the team instead, while Jimmie “languished” in Reno. As even experienced pitchers like Yoshihisa Hirano, Matt Andriese and T.J. McFarland struggled to ERAs above 4.70, there were many comments wondering why Sherfy wasn’t getting a chance, as he was selected as one of the Aces’ representatives for the Pacific Coast League All-Star game. It seemed almost as if something had happened to make him fall out of favor with the Diamondbacks front-office. Though to be fair to Sherfy, there’s absolutely no evidence for that, or what it might be.

Even Fangraphs got on the bandwagon, writing an article in July titled “Jimmie Sherfy and a Fair Chance.” That concluded, “Jimmie Sherfy has had a little bit of success in the big leagues. It’d be a shame if that’s all he gets.” But the Reno phone for him remained silent. Jimmie did lose a month due to an upper-body injury, just after the All-Star break, and after rehabbing, came back to Phoenix when rosters expanded. However, we then apparently saw why the D-backs had been so reluctant to promote him, though it’s always risky to draw any conclusions on a sample size barely reaching a handful of innings.

For in twelve September games, Sherfy had an ERA of a whopping 11.42, allowing 11 earned runs in 8.2 innings. That included four home-runs, compared to just one allowed by Jimmie over his first 36.1 frames in the majors. He also had a BABIP of .389, and with a K:BB ratio of 13:0, you could argue bad luck was a component in the poor performance. Was this simply regression biting hard, after Sherfy’s unsustainbly good performance through his first two-plus campaigns? Or were Torey Lovullo and Mike Hazen aware of an issue with Sherfy, which could explain his September struggles, as well as justifying him being kept down in Triple-A for much of the year?

2020 Preview

Jimmie Sherfy is out of options for 2020, so he will have to make the roster out of Spring Training, or he will have to clear waivers before being sent down. Considering the team’s reluctance to call up Sherfy despite dominating AAA at times, it will be interesting to see if the team actually holds on to him. It’s one thing to not use a player, when he can safely be stashed away in the minors, but one imagines there’s a good chance Jimmie would be claimed by another side if put on waivers.

The reality is probably that Sherfy is neither as good as the sub-one ERA posted in his early career, nor as bad as the double-digit figure put up in September. His career FIP, probably the best guide as to future performance is 3.82, and the D-backs could certainly do a lot worse than that. The option situation probably gives him a leg up over other potential bullpen candidates like Kevin Ginkel, who can potentially occupy the role of taxi relievers, shuttling back and forth from Reno as necessary. Yoan Lopez is another who, unlike Sherfy, can safely be optioned. Especially with a 26th roster spot available in 2020, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Sherfy on the Opening Day roster next year, for the first time in his career.