St. Louis Cardinals: Ryan Sherriff, the dark horse closer candidate

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 6: The grounds crew tends to the pitchers mound during the seventh inning of the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park on September 6, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 6: The grounds crew tends to the pitchers mound during the seventh inning of the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park on September 6, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

The St. Louis Cardinals are still searching for a new closer but should they fail to land one this offseason, who already on the squad would be the incumbent fall-back option?

The St. Louis Cardinals still need to improve the club this offseason. One way to do so is by snatching a closer. This is no secret and the club has made it clear that this is a goal for the offseason. While little has transpired in this matter, the front office seems busy working to find one.

Here I continue my look at incumbent candidates for the closing role should the St. Louis Cardinals fail to find a solution before the start of the season.

As Spring Training approaches, we may need to temper our expectations for the club grabbing a closer. I don’t believe this will be the case as I trust that the front office will sign either Addison Reed or Greg Holland before pitchers and catchers report. That said, what options might exist should the team fail to fulfill the closer wish?

As I stated in my Brett Cecil piece (jump here if you haven’t read it) and in my Tyler Lyons post (jump here if you haven’t read it), over the next couple of posts I plan to review a few of the names already on the St. Louis Cardinals squads for potential closer fall-backs. Today, I want to focus on what to me seems like the hiding-in-the-wings, dark horse candidate: Ryan Sherriff.

In his career, Sherriff has recorded 11 minor-league saves in six years of service in the St. Louis Cardinals organization. This certainly does not engender overt trust that Sherriff could do the job but does show that he has at least appeared in the role at times in his past. Albeit, these appearances have only come with the actual label as high as AAA in 2017.

Sherriff, for those who don’t know, is a southpaw who made 13 appearances for the St. Louis Cardinals during the 2017 campaign. His best year in the minors came in 2013 when he shared time between A+ and AA and posted an ERA of 2.57 across 105 innings. In these, Sherriff recorded 59 strikeouts and posted a 1.171 WHIP.

As it relates to strikeouts- something a closer needs to command with ease- Sherriff’s best year for Ks came in 2017 in Memphis when he struck out 47 batters during his 53.2 innings of service (faced 212 batters). These numbers equated to an impressive 0.988 WHIP. These numbers were why he was called up for MLB exposure.

In the 14 innings in which Sherriff appeared in 2017 at the MLB level, he struck out 15 batters and surrendered only 13 hits. This all equated to a 1.186 WHIP and a 3.14 ERA. While things could have been better, these numbers show significant promise.

Don’t lose hope, St. Louis Cardinals fans, as Sherriff has the stuff to be the closer. I personally saw about ten of his saves in Memphis in 2017 and let me tell you that the southpaw can confuse batters with ease.

According to QOPA, Sherriff is just barely above the MLB average rating (4.50) with his rating 4.66 (Lyons posted a 4.64 QOPA). In his career, he has thrown a 218 MLB pitches according to QOPA. Of these, 42 have been 4-seam fastballs, 110 have been sinkers, and 67 have been sliders.

Here’s a breakdown and comparison of ratings between Sherriff, Cecil, and Lyons based on pitches as reported by QOPA:

All of these three could serve in the closing role. While I argued that Cecil should not, and that Lyons could be a fall-back option, I completely believe that Sherriff- with direction to serve as a closer- could surprise the NL-Central.

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Here’s where they stand apart, to me: the slider. While Sherriff has a very small sample size, his slider- which I’ve seen confuse the tar out of AAA batters- his slider is light’s out. This slider could be the difference maker and his three-pitch repertoire can easily be transformed into a three-pitch-type closer, especially in light of his past experience.

To the slider in particular, a pitch with a great deal of movement, Sherriff’s has recorded a QOPA rating of 4.63 (just slightly above MLB average) to Cecil’s zero rating and zero sliders pitched. If Sherriff can get a solid hold on this pitch in addition to his other three pitches, he could well serve as a deadly closer.

Let me say here that if Cecil were living up to his potential then this conversation might be markedly different. He isn’t (yet), so between the three, I’d prefer Sherriff or Lyons appear in the closing role.

I beg that readers take a deep look at the title of this post rather than jump to conclusions that I WANT Sherriff as the 2018 closer. On the contrary, I am suggesting that he- to me- would not surprise me should he see some exposure during spring trainig in this capacity.

Next: Q&A with Poncedeleon

Who would you put in the closer role? Stay with me as I intend to look at a few other names already in the St. Louis Cardinals system who might fit into the closer role should the organization fail to grab a verifiable, existing closer.