Sherrill, Ibanez, and the unpredictable playoffs

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Count me among those who think that the playoffs involve a lot more luck and random chance than most people would like to believe. An example of the unpredictable, anything-can-happen nature of the postseason was on display last night when George Sherrill came out of the Dodgers’ bullpen to pitch the eighth inning of a 5-4 game.
Sherrill is among the best left-handed relievers in baseball and was absolutely fantastic after joining the Dodgers in a midseason trade, posting a 0.65 ERA in 27.2 innings while holding opponents to a .192 batting average. Overall this season left-handed batters managed to hit a measly .128 with zero homers against Sherrill and he also held lefties to a .190 batting average last year.
So what happened? Well, first Sherrill walked Ryan Howard, a left-handed batter who hit just .207 with a putrid .653 OPS against southpaws this season. And then he walked Jayson Werth, which as ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark pointed out was the first time in Sherrill’s entire career that he’d walked back-to-back hitters leading off an inning that he’d started. But wait, there’s more.
With two men on base Raul Ibanez stepped to the plate, at which point Sherrill served up his first home run to a left-handed hitter since June 14, 2008. Now, to Ibanez’s credit he’s typically done well against left-handed pitching, so his hitting the homer isn’t so shocking. But the entire sequence had to come as a shock to Joe Torre, who’s spent the last few months watching Sherrill give up a grand total of one run in 30 appearances while being basically unhittable against lefties.
So naturally Sherrill walks the first two batters he sees, including a left-handed hitter who struggles mightily against pitchers like him, and then serves up his first homer to a lefty in 17 months. These are the types of things that determine who wins and loses in the playoffs, and there’s just no way to predict them in an environment where losing three or four games to a good team ends your season. It’s an awful lot of fun to watch, though.

Brewers promote David Stearns from GM to president of baseball operations

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It used to be that the top dog in a team’s baseball operations department was the general manager. That has changed over the past several years with some combination of title inflation, a genuine addition of supervisory layers and, on some level, employe poaching insurance leading to the top dog now being called, usually, a “president of baseball operations.”

Brewers’ general manager David Stearns is the latest to assume that tile, as the club just announced that he has been promoted to Milwaukee’s president of baseball operations. He has also received a contract extension of unknown length.

Not a big shock given how well the Brewers did in 2018, winning the NL Central title and playing in the NLCS. It’s also worth noting — with a nod to that “employee poaching insurance” item above — that Stearns has drawn some interest from other organizations. It’s thus not unfair to see the promotion is both a thanks for a job well done and a means of keeping other teams’ hands off of him, as employees are generally not given permission to interview for lateral moves, but are given permission to interview for promotions.

The Mudville Nine may have wanted to steal him from Milwaukee, but for Stearns to get a promotion from where he is now would require the creation of some other lofty title.