Dennis Sarfate, relief pitcher
Should he be in the major leagues?
Dennis Sarfate was lights-out as the Tides’ 2010 closer, taking over after Alberto Castillo and Frank Mata were promoted to Baltimore. There is nothing to criticize about his performance in 56 innings — 72 strikeouts; 32 hits allowed, 4 home runs; a 2.73 ERA with only one unearned run; a 27-72 BB/K ratio. And he looked every bit as dominant as his numbers would indicate, with a mid-90′s fastball. It seems inconceivable that Alfredo Simon could serve as the Orioles closer, yet there’s not even room on the roster to give Sarfate a chance.
Yet, I have to wonder if 2010 was a fluke year. Sarfate faced 226 batters last season. Before 2010, Sarfate really hadn’t pitched well anywhere since 2003, as a 22-year-old in the Midwest League. He was hurt in 2009, pitching 16 minor-league and 23 major-league innings. He spent most of 2008 in Baltimore, and was as wild as Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams, and as hittable as he was wild.
There are examples of pitchers who suffered a serious injury and came back as a better pitcher. I don’t know of anyone who pitched with such poor control and bounced back to pitch with such improved control. I still think he pitched well enough to earn another chance.
Okay, why didn’t the Orioles call him up during the year? They called everybody else up.
I believe it’s because of some of the arcane transaction rules. Sarfate wasn’t on the 40-man roster during the season. If they called him up, they’d have had to create a spot for him. That wouldn’t have been the problem. However, if he pitched poorly, and they needed another spot on the 40-man, and they would have wanted to remove Sarfate, the Orioles would have had to put him on waivers and somebody would have claimed him. But it’s worse — Sarfate had already been dropped from the forty-man roster, and so would have the option of refusing the Orioles’ minor-league assignment and declaring free agency. He would almost certainly have done so and may have signed with someone else. So, the Orioles kept him in the minors primarily to prevent someone else from getting him.