ORLANDO — Left-hander George Sherrill had a bloated 6.69 ERA in a career-worst season for the Dodgers in 2010, but there was a reason the Braves and others including Philadelphia wanted the free-agent reliever.
It’s because the former Baltimore closer remained effective against left-handed hitters. Despite his .311 overall opponents’ average in 2010, Sherrill limited lefties to a .192 average. During the previous three years, they hit a puny .156 against him.
The Braves and Sherrill agreed to terms Wednesday on a $1.2 million contract, pending a physical exam. It was previously thought that the stocky veteran was leaning toward signing with the Phillies. The Orioles were among his other suitors.
“He’s a very effective guy against lefties,” Braves general manager Frank Wren said of Sherrill, who will be 34 in April. “His numbers early in the season obviously weren’t as good [as they have been in the past]; he had 52 saves in ‘08 and ‘09.
“He performed at a much higher rate in those years, and we felt like he made some good strides in the second half of ‘10.”
Sherrill had 31 saves in an All-Star season with Baltimore in 2008, and a 1.70 ERA in 72 appearances with the Orioles and Dodgers in 2009. His performance slipped precipitously in 2010.
He gives the Braves a third lefty in the bullpen, along with Jonny Venters and Eric O’Flaherty. Unlike those two, Sherrill isn’t likely to be used for full innings at a time. Not anymore.
At this point of his career, the fewer right-handers he faces, the better off he and the Braves are likely to be.
Sherrill totaled 112-1/3 innings in 129 appearances over two seasons with the Orioles and Dodgers. In 2010, he pitched just 36-1/3 innings in 65 innings.
While lefties hit .192 with a .574 on-base-plus-slugging percentage (OPS) in 73 at-bats against him, right-handers torched him at a .427/1.123 rate in 75 at-bats.
During 2007-2009, he was devastating against lefties (.156/.468), but also effective against righties (.242/.711).
He struggled mightily in the first half last season, allowing 31 hits, 17 walks and 18 earned runs in 21-2/3 innings through July 19. Sherrill fared better the rest of the way, allowing 15 hits, seven walks and nine runs in 14-2/3 innings over his final 28 appearances.
“He’s got the good breaking ball, and he’s one of those guys that just goes right after [hitters],” Wren said. “He knows how to get guys out.”