On the baseball front, the Braves roster moves this week have caused a bit of controversy, to say the least. There has been a great thread on the subject over on Facebook in a closed Braves group, and comments on this blog and many others. Fred has weighed in, as have I. Mostly the comments supporting the move say: “I understand the economics” and the ones against the move (mostly the demotion of Cory Gearrin part) say “Who in their right mind would keep Scott Linebrink over Gearrin?”. I’d like to add a few comments that might lead the discussion towards new ground.
First, and I’d say this regardless of the names of the players on the field and in the front office, everyone needs to go back to their entry level accounting/finance/economics textbooks and read the definition of “sunk costs“. The history books are filled with examples of companies who went broke making decisions based on sunk costs. The salaries committed to Linebrink and George Sherrill are going to be paid regardless of the decisions reached. Making decisions on future performance because you have guaranteed contracts to players who have shown little indication of future performance will only lead to failure. To those who say the Braves can’t afford to eat reliever salaries, I say that in this case they can’t afford not to. The focus must be on putting the best team possible on the field.
But here’s where I think the decision making process ran off the rails a bit. All the discussion seems to have been on Linebrink versus Gearrin; who stays and who goes. I think the truly useless reliever on the staff is Sherrill. In fact, when you look at Linebrink, at least you can see that he still throws 95 MPH. He’s always been a fly ball pitcher, mostly due to the fact that his fastball is straight. When he gets into trouble is mostly when he elevates his pitches, which he has done a lot this year and last. He also appears to be tipping his off-speed pitches and batters are laying off them and waiting on the heater. Though I think Linebrink is way overpaid and I was opposed to his presence on the roster at his salary from the start, I think there is at least a chance he can be redeemed to a serviceable level. Plus, the Braves bullpen badly needs right handed pitchers, as three lefties out of seven relievers has already led to bad match-ups.
What I don’t see is any way for Sherrill to carry his weight (OK, pun somewhat intended ). As both Fred and I have said, and Fredi has shown through his usage patterns, the only time you feel comfortable with Sherrill is when he has been brought in to face left handed hitting pitchers!!! He has been used in that situation twice this year, which is two more times than I have ever seen it done before this year. As was shown all last year, this spring, and even this season, he can’t get quality hitters out, period. He can’t get any right handed batters out, regardless of whether they are quality hitters or not. His ERA this year is a prime example of how useless ERA can be in evaluating relief pitchers, especially based on small samples. Case in point, in his last outing he faced two Astros, both of whom got hits. Eric O’Flaherty comes in and retires three straight batters with no one scoring. Sherrill, who has a useless outing, sees his ERA fall. I can guarantee you that his is the emptiest 2+ ERA in the league!
To my mind, Gearrin should have been kept on the roster. The Braves should cut ties with Sherrill. This way, they have more middle inning options. They have a better left/right balance in the pen. They have kept a pitcher with better stuff in Linebrink. And, for those of you still stuck on the sunk cost issue, they eat less salary waiving Sherrill.
I see no downside to my scenario. I think that Sherrill being cut is a foregone conclusion anyway; the only issue to me is when. I say “Do it now!”. That’s my take. What’s yours?