In part forty of my almost 50 part series “Better Know An Oriole” (otherwise known as 2009 Orioles Retrospective), I take a look at right-hander Dennis Sarfate… THE FIGHTIN’ WILD FLAMETHROWER!
Sarfate was another one of the pieces that came over from Houston in the Miguel Tejada trade, and with his big arm there was hope that he could dominate at the back end of the bullpen. I projected Sarfate for 55 innings of solid, though not dominating, 4.37 ERA ball in 2009.
After starting out the year in a less than stellar fashion – a 6.39 ERA, with 2.1 HR/9 and a 1.4 K to BB ratio – Sarfate went on the DL at the beginning of May with a circulatory issue in his right hand. He didn’t make it back on the field until September, and though he finished the year out OK – 3.48 ERA with no home runs, but the same 1.4 K:BB – his overall numbers for the season were a step back instead of forward.
His walk rate of 5.5 BB/9 was actually an improvement over 2008 (7 BB/9), but the strike-outs also dropped (from 9.7 per nine to 7.8) so that was largely a wash. Always a flyball pitcher, Sarfate was even more extreme in that regard with a 54.7% flyball rate. If you give up that many balls in the air, some of them are bound to find the seats. A 5.01 FIP just isn’t getting the job done, and if that moves towards his 5.39 xFIP he won’t be able to keep his roster spot.
Normally guys that throw hard are able to catch on somewhere, so Sarfate better hope his drop in velocity – from 94.5 mph to just 92 mph – is mostly just temporary as he recovers from surgery. Interestingly, his heater actually has some cut to it, which I didn’t pick up when watching him in action. If he could control it and maybe get some more sinking action – even at 92 – then he might have something working with his decent curveball as back-up.
I’m still willing to give the guy another chance to harness his potential, but as is he’s really just a replacement level pitcher at this point.
Photo by Keith Allison and used under the Creative Commons License 2.0.