First Pitch: What Should the Pirates Do With Jason Grilli?

Today’s game got a lot of attention for two things: the fight between the Brewers and Pirates, and the second blown save by Jason Grilli. I’m going to skip talking about the fight. I’ll save that topic for the next time a Brewers player overreacts to a slight against him, then blames the other person for his over-reaction. You know, the same thing that children do.

Instead, I’m going to focus on Grilli. The closer position is the most “what have you done for me lately” position there is in baseball. A lot of players are getting unfairly judged on small sample sizes early in the season, whether those samples are good or bad. The closer gets judged by small sample sizes all year round. It’s for that reason that the Pirates have been able to get good value on relief pitchers in the past — because other teams have placed too much emphasis on small samples.

In Grilli’s case, he blew two saves this weekend, giving him three blown saves in eight appearances. That’s going to start the calls for him to be replaced as the closer. But let’s break down the results.

Grilli’s first blown save came during his second outing of the year, in the ninth inning against the Cubs during the second game of the season. The Pirates went on to win the game, but Grilli put them at risk of losing it by giving up the lead in the ninth inning. Following that outing, he converted four saves in a row, before his struggles this weekend.

Both blown saves were a result of Ryan Braun home runs. That raises the question of whether it was evidence of Grilli being a bad closer, or just a situation where Braun came up big in back to back games. In other words, should Grilli be replaced just because Braun got to him two games in a row?

If you look at the larger sample, you’ll see that Grilli has a 2.79 ERA in 148.1 innings since joining the Pirates, along with a 2.75 FIP to back that number up. However, switching back to the small sample, he has a 4.50 ERA and a 4.90 FIP in his eight innings this year.

It’s entirely possible that this is the start of Grilli’s decline. At the same time, we could just be looking at a small sample, which will eventually revert back to the numbers prior to this season. The only way to tell which is correct is to send Grilli back out there for more save opportunities and see which version continues to show up.

Of course if Grilli was eventually replaced, the top option would be Mark Melancon. Anyone worried about Grilli’s small sample size this year might also dock Melancon for a small sample of struggles last year at the end of the season in the closer’s role. So far, Melancon has been effective once again this year, and shouldn’t have a problem if he needs to move back into the closer’s role. I say he shouldn’t have a problem, because I’m not docking his entire season last year, and his strong start this year, based on a few bad outings.

You can choose to give more weight to small sample sizes for relievers. In some cases, you might be correct. In other cases — such as the one with Melancon in Boston — you might lose out on a player by putting too much weight on a few bad outings.

In the end, it’s all about comfort. Fans tend to gravitate toward comfortable situations. Reclamation projects don’t provide comfort. Rookies don’t provide comfort. And relievers coming off a few bad outings don’t provide comfort. But if a team avoided these situations, and focused on comfortable moves, then that team would miss out on a lot of what got the Pirates to the playoffs last year, and to the point this year where an 8-11 start is seen as a disaster.

As uncomfortable as it may be after this weekend, the Pirates need to give Grilli another chance, so that he can show which Jason Grilli will emerge going forward.

Links and Notes

**Week In Review: Ike Davis Trade, More Polanco Dominance, 2014 Draft

**What the future holds for Andrew Lambo

**After tough start, Phil Irwin is sent to the bullpen

**Prospect Highlights: Doubles From Polanco and Rojas

**Prospect Watch: One Big Inning Sinks Indianapolis

**Minor League Schedule: Jeff Locke Makes Second Indianapolis Start

**Draft Prospect Watch: Four Prep Players That Could Be Interesting Picks For Pirates

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • Greg7373

    As I texted before the pitching change, why not give Cole the opportunity to throw a complete game?

    • Macchamp74

      Because Hurdle is the manager….Stubborn is his middle name.

      • Ian Rothermund

        I was so angry about that. I can’t remember exactly, but I think he was still under 90 pitches. If not, he was definitely still under 100, and only threw 7 in the 8th. I wanted to see Cole in closer mode. You know there would have been some serious gas in that last inning if he would have been out there. I was thinking about Verlander and what he does in those situations.

        • moose7195

          Yeah he was under 90. Classic case of over-managing on Hurdle’s part

          • Y2JGQ2

            He was at 91 for the record

            • Ian Rothermund

              So low enough. He’s the best pitcher on the team….so if he isn’t allowed to work a complete game, then who is?

              • emjayinTN

                I think he threw 8 pitches in the 7th and 7 pitches in the 8th or vice-versa, and created enough broken bats to have a huge bonfire. He did not look like he was upset about being taken out, but I think Hurdle was thinking long term wanting to get Grilli back on the horse.

                • Ian Rothermund

                  I know he threw 7 in the 8th, not sure about the 7th. Either way, I understand the logic. I just don’t agree with it

  • S Brooks

    The front office would rather Grilli keep the job to keep Melancon’s save totals low, so that his arb number next winter is much more reasonable for a closer. And for that reason above all others, Grilli’s going to be given a long leash.

    The concern is less with his results than it is with the peripherals. His velocity is down about 1 MPH from last year, both fastball and slider. He’s missing the zone more often too – about 60% strikes this year vs. 68% last. Hitters used to swing at 38% of his pitches out of the zone, and now it’s only 24%. So it follows that his K% is barely half what it was in ’13, and the BB% has doubled. The numbers back up the eye test – he just isn’t dominating the way he has the last 2 years. For whatever reason, whether it’s the velocity or loss of command, he isn’t getting hitters to chase, and they’re sticking around long enough to either walk or put loud contact on his pitches.

    Sure, he could work it out. Or he could do what Brad Lidge did under similar circumstances (twice, in ’06 and ’09, each time when he lost velo and hitters were laying off/fouling off the slider). It can’t be easy to adjust to diminished skills, especially once the season starts.

    I think Grilli deserves some time to right the ship, but I’ve never been a fan of the anointed closer, and would prefer that Melancon get the call to protect 1-run leads.

    • S Brooks

      the “his” in “his arb number” refers to Melancon, just in case there’s any confusion.

      • lonleylibertarian

        I am not a fan of moving Melancon into the closer role – waiting on his splitter and going the opposite field worked – and will work again. I vote for giving Watson a shot – he has done enough to deserve it.

        But yesterday was on Hurdle – Cole deserved the win and deserved the chance to win it himself – pitch count was fine and he was still amped from the Gonzo show

    • Monkshot

      So far it absolutely looks that way, however I think if he faulters this series against the Reds, he’s demoted to 8th inning duty. Not only that, but when is Wandy going to be placed on the DL? It’s obvious he’s not 100% yet, let him figure this out in AAA, and call up Cumpton. Lastly, I loved we got some offensive production from 3B yesterday, Harrison has given this offense a boost this year even though he’s been given minimal playing time. 8-11 isn’t the end of the world, but it’s obvious the 1 run games are not going to be ridiculously slanted in the Pirates favor this year, they need to find consistant offensive production without the need of a HR.

    • moose7195

      You are literally talking about 125 pitches this year. So it follows that every single % you are talking about is completely useless right now. There is nothing but the eye test, which is also suffering from small sample size. Give it time. Knee jerk reactions are the most unconstructive thing ever

      • S Brooks

        It’s never a good idea to dismiss early data as “completely useless,” just like it would be a mistake to make irrevocable decisions based on it. We have half the data sufficient to start drawing conclusions on K% – rates stabilize at 70 batters faced. At that point you can no longer discount results as random noise. It may not be enough, but it’s not nothing.

        I’m all for giving Grilli time to show that it IS noise. At the same time it would be foolish to ignore the emerging trends of lower fastball and slider velocity, lower swinging strike % and lower K%, especially for a guy who was an elite closer specifically because he was able to limit contact.

        • moose7195

          Yes but it is very misleading to start comparing an entire years worth of data to just 8 games of data. I agree that the trends can’t be ignored, but many on here are reacting like the sky is falling which isn’t the case

          • S Brooks

            That we can definitely agree on. Some of the comments make me wonder whether I stumbled onto ESPN’s comments page.

    • Andrew

      It is one thing for a team to plan to keep arbitration salaries down by paying an established closer but I think it is a little much
      to suggest that teams will continue to willfully lose games in order to save $2-3 million on salary.

      I agree with the idea of giving him time and the questionable nature of the anointed closer but I have to agree with Moose, Grilli has faced 35 batters and thrown 136 pitches, I would make too much of the plate discipline stats just yet.

      • S Brooks

        I’m not suggesting the front office is willfully losing games to save money – you jumped to that conclusion all by yourself. If they thought Grilli was a liability going forward, I have no doubt they would take him off 9th inning duties.

        What I am saying is they will wait until they are convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that Grilli is not going to work out before making a move. Longer than you and I might, longer than they would if he were making the league minimum. And it absolutely has to do with managing costs.

        • Andrew

          Absolutely has to do with managing cost? So if Melancon/Watson were being paid via free agent contracts and not subject to arbitration they would be moved into 9th inning role sooner than under the current situation? How is this not willfully sacrificing performance for saving a two million in future arbitration salaries?

          This debate is somewhat academic and I’ll gladly let it go,I just think Grilli will receive a longer leash because of his past two season of performance not a because of intended salary suppression.

          • S Brooks

            To answer your first question, I absolutely believe that yes they would. And to answer your second, here’s an analogy from business:

            In leadership and organizational behavior, decision makers are often classified into two types: “satisficers” and “maximizers.” Maximizers wait until they have as much data as they can collect before they pull the trigger, because to them a wrong decision is more negative than the cost of missing an opportunity. Satisficers only wait until they have a preponderance of data, figuring if they make a wrong decision they’ll manage the consequences. There’s no right or wrong, it’s just two different styles.

            When you’re paying your closer $4M and the downside of making a switch is your closer-in-waiting might command an extra $2-3M in salary next year, the incentives support being a maximizer.

            And it’s a strategy that other low revenue clubs are getting around to employing:

            http://www.hardballtimes.com/how-paying-established-closers-saves-teams-money/

            Complicating matters is the fact that elite closers still blow saves, and shaky closers still close out 80-85% of their games. So even more incentive to wait.

  • emjayinTN

    His velocity is down and his command at times is excellent, but putting two balls in the middle of the plate to the most dangerous hitter in their lineup is very foolish. First pitch fastball down and on the outside corner, then hangs a curve in the middle of the plate? Everything should have been down to the point of walking him if he did not offer at anything. Grilli used to be 95/96 with a drop off the table breaking pitch. He is now 93/94 and his breaking pitch is more side to side.

    • jaygray007

      wow he used to pop 96 with regularity? i don’t remember this. I thought he was usually 93-95. I could be wrong.

      • Josh Dz

        Last year I saw him hit 96 and even 97, and it had movement, and well as a lot of late life, since the injury he has been 92-93, with less life and less movement, and his breaking ball is more of a looper than a hammer…

    • Wabbit_Season

      We can all argue about the numbers but Grills has not been the same to my eye since the injury. Last season he was lights out. This season he’s been pretty hare-um-scare-um. Lots of base runners. And he just doesn’t seem to finish guys the way he has. Something is missing. Really rooting for the guy, though. Hope he gets past this rough spot. AND, like CH says, he has earned his place and shouldn’t lose it giving up homers to Roid-boy Braun.

      -Wabbit

  • skliesen

    Grilli will continue to get trotted out there to start the 9th in a save situation. Period. No way CH yanks him from this role after this weekend. Nor should he. However, with that being said, CH cost Pirates and Cole a win by pulling him from game after 8 innings and only 91 pitches. And nearly as bad, now the bullpen is used up going into a 4 game set vs Cincy, too.

    Why Managers coddle these closers by only letting them start the 9th inning is beyond me. Cole should’ve started the 9th and Grilli should’ve been brought in to close only if Cole got into trouble. That was as much a must win game as there can be in April, and CH managed it like it’s just any other game. Be better CH!

    • emjayinTN

      sk: Agree, and Cole had pinpoint Command except for the pitch he left up to Reynolds. 15 pitches in the 7th and 8th – yes, I was looking for Cole to start the 9th and win or lose it for himself. BTW, Grilli is the most obvious, but our hitters are making the Brewers pitchers look like All Stars, and let’s not forget our other SP’s in their last 2 starts – Wandy 9 IP/ 10ER, Morton 13 IP/ 7 ER, and Liriano, 13 IP/ 7 ER – thats a 10 ERA for Wandy, and 4.85 ERA’s for Morton and Liriano. We better wake up fast and figure out how badly we want to win.

      • lonleylibertarian

        We don’t want to win – we want to have as much control over players as long as possible so we can keep the payroll below everyone else in our division – that is clearly the goal – anybody notice the gem AJ threw last time out? I am hoping he cranks out a 3+ WAR year and then want to hear NH dance around why no QO was such a brilliant idea.

  • impliedi

    Even though Smizik says Grilli needs to go, I don’t see that happening anytime soon!! The only thing that gets me about yesterday’s homer to Braun, is this is one of those cases of athlete’s ego getting the best of them. This was clearly Grilli feeling that just because Braun beat him the day before, that “I’m not going to be scared of him.”

    I’m sorry, but I think it’s okay to treat certain players with kid gloves in certain situations. Braun shouldn’t have seen a strike yesterday. I imagine that if McCutchen or Alvarez had gotten a meatball to win the game on Saturday by the Brewers’ closer, that he certainly wouldn’t be seeing anything decent to hit in a similar situation by the same pitcher the following day. So, lesson learned (hopefully) when you’re pitching to the, ahem, most “enhanced” hitter in the game, sometimes it’s okay to work around him.

  • Lee Young

    to take it one step further…..let’s say we pull him from the closer role. What do we do with him? Put him in Morris’ role and bump everyone up? Do you trust him in ANY role?

    • aso513

      He’s a low leverage reliever at this point, exactly what he should be seeing as he is the 5th best reliever in the bullpen, maybe.

  • aso513

    So why does this article ignore the fact that both Grilli’s K rate and fastball velocity have declined since his injury last year? Because it wouldn’t line up with Hurdle/the people that pay Tim’s reasoning?

    • jaygray007

      Velocity – Okay maybe he’s lost 1 mph. it’s not like he went from throwing 94 and 95 to throwing 89 and 90. he’s throwing 93s and 94s. Hardly an indication of a great demise, IMO.

      “since his injury last year” – he threw like 10 innings after his injury last year. and 8 this year. this is hardly enough data to indicate that Grilli is done.

      he hung a slider last night. to ryan braun. it’s not like Ben Revere hit the homer. Braun is really good. it happens.

      • S Brooks

        All else being equal, a -1 MPH correlates to +.40-.45 runs allowed per 9 for relievers (Hardball Times).

        • jaygray007

          okay but that would still give him a 3.1 ERA if you compare it to last year.

          If we are witnessing Grilli’s demise, it won’t be because he’s topping out at 94 instead of 95. It’ll be because something else is going on.

          I think we can all agree that the days of the 2.7 ERA are probably over for him, but that doesn’t mean he’s not going to be a good player.

      • S Brooks

        *To put that last data point in perspective, since all of Grilli’s save opportunities have been with 1 run leads (thanks, Pirate hitters), that would be an extra blown save every 2-3 outings if the velocity holds and Grilli follows the average pattern.

    • moose7195

      He’s 37, a small drop in velocity is normal, and you’re ignoring that it is still a small sample size, even from last year.

      • aso513

        Open your eyes, if you lose velocity and command you are setting yourself up for disaster, supporting Grilli here is being a fan more than a rational person. In fact hitters have an unreasonably low BABIP this year and Grilli still has been awful. Better make a change before it is too late, put Grilli’s pride behind the goals of the team, he’ll understand.

        • jaygray007

          But he hasn’t lost all his velocity. we’re talking 1 mph at most. and i don’t get how 8 innings is enough to say that he’s lost his command.

          yes. if you’re a soft tosser who can’t hit the plate, of course you’ll be terrible. the only difference is that some of us are saying Grilli is already a mop up guy and some of us are saying that 8 innings are not enough time to say that. he’s still popping 94.

        • moose7195

          Open YOUR eyes, we are talking about 8 appearances, 125 pitches, or 8 IP. Take your pick, they are all too small of a sample to make any definitive decisions

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com/ Tim Williams

      Grilli’s average velocity:

      2013: 93.4 MPH
      2014: 93.4 MPH

      The strikeout rate is down. It has also been 15 innings. Small sample size.

      Who are the people that pay me? Are you referring to people who buy the Prospect Guide? Or my ad networks? What do they have to do with this?

      • jaygray007

        Thanks for that stat, Tim. I don’t know where this “Grilli used to throw 96 and now he’s lost his velocity” narrative is coming from.

        • http://www.piratesprospects.com/ Tim Williams

          Grilli’s best velocity with the Pirates was in 2012, when he averaged 93.6 MPH with his fastball. That also ties 2007 for the best mark of his career.

          • aso513

            His average FB velocity this year is 92.5 according to Fangraphs Timmay, but feel free to make things up.

            • jaygray007

              but even then. just .9 MPH difference … after 8 innings…. how is this already indicating somebody’s demise?

              • jaygray007

                if this continues another month, yeah sure i’ll be on board with saying Grilli should be demoted. but 8 innings….

        • aso513

          It’s coming from the fact he has lost his velocity, look at @disqus_vjKbFCial4:disqus post, he breaks it down perfectly. Grilli’s stuff isn’t the same in any way. If you really believe Grilli is better than any of the following then you aren’t paying attention: Watson, Morris, Melancon, and Wilson.

          Also Tim, Fangraphs has his average velocity at 92.5 MPH but feel free to make stuff up.

          • http://www.piratesprospects.com/ Tim Williams

            Regardless of what anyone says in the comments, the stats show that Grilli’s velocity is the same.

            • aso513

              No, Fangraphs clearly has it at 92.5MPH this season. But I think you meant to say, “Regardless of what the facts say my sheep, follow my made up ones because they support this piece of trash article.”

              And believe me, I use the word article very loosely.

              • http://www.piratesprospects.com/ Tim Williams

                I’m showing 93.4 and 93.4.

                You need to grow up.

              • leowalter

                Are you real jerk, or just acting like one ?

              • indybucfan

                I’m curious, if you dislike the writing here so much, why come here? Do you have such a sad miserable life that you want to try and make everyone around you just as miserable? Tim’s worked hard to make this site what it is and he’s anything but a company shill! Hell, he’s not even a Pirate fan. But yet he manages to put out a good product with countless hours of research! What have you done? Keeping Melancon out of the closers job for arbitration purposes? That is one of the dumbest things I have ever read. Those straws you and your smizikstan followers keep pulling out shorter straws.

            • S Brooks

              It depends on which stats you look at, Tim. The unadulterated raw PitchF/x velocities that come straight from MLBAM are at Fangraphs, and those show a 1MPH decrease in both fastball and slider velocity. Brooks Baseball reclassifies the data by hand and back-calculates the velocity to 55 feet from home plate, rather than 50 feet, which is where PitchF/x cameras begin to pick it up. (This is also why average velocities are higher on Brooks than they are on Fangraphs).

              The back calculations are subject to error, depending on a pitcher’s release point (some pitchers have longer strides than others). On the flip side, with Brooks you have the benefit of cleaning up pitch types that you know the guy doesn’t throw (although for some reason Brooks has Grilli throwing sinkers now, which, if not true, would reduce his average FB velocity a couple tenths).

              Taking both the raw and manipulated data sets, the best we might say is it’s inconclusive as to whether he’s lost velocity on the fastball, but it looks like he has on the slider.

          • moose7195

            Since when did better = closer? Not every good reliever can be a closer. It is a mindset that not every pitcher can create or succeed in, it isn’t a “who can throw the ball hardest” contest.

          • jaygray007

            Well i don’t care if the best reliever is the closer anyway. But that’s a debate for another day.

            Even if he did lose velocity, it’s a minimal loss.
            And if you want to say that Brooks’ stats are especially meaningful after 8 innings , that’s fine with me. I am just going to choose not to do that.

        • Josh Dz

          Its coming if you watched the games…. I watched Gilli last year with a 1-2, or 2-2 count could reach back and get 95 with late life, he doesn’t have that since the injury, there is a lot of 92-93 with no movement, and very flat, call up videos, and you will stuff that looks a lot different…. on top of that his breaking ball isnt what it was last year either

      • Nuke Laloosh

        Good job Tim!

      • johndw28

        Tim, serious question- what you consider adequate sample size before making a final determination if Jason Grilli should continue as closer?

      • johndw28

        His balls in play on his four seam and especially his slider are up considerably. He no longer has an out pitch imo.

  • sweetleb

    wilson in the 7th, watson 8th, melancon 9th. also dfa jenmar and bring up mazzaro. bring up palanco and dfa snider. done and done .

    • moose7195

      Sounds like a terrible knee-jerk reaction to me. Maybe its just the Brewers that have him figured out, I’d give him a series or two more to see if this is simply a bad couple of days. And you do not bring up your best prospect after only 60 AAA ABs no matter how hot of a streak they are on. You might stunt Polanco’s development.

      • aso513

        It only sounds that way because you are an ignorant fan.

        • moose7195

          Aww, stop, you’re hurting my feelings. Can you even put enough words together to say why my comment is ignorant.

        • leowalter

          moose is ” an ignorant fan “,so I guess you are an intelligent fan ? I think you are a troll at the minimum.

        • moose7195

          Not saying that for certain. My point was that this rough patch could be from any number of small arbitrary reasons, including one where the Brewers simply have a better approach to Grilli than most teams. We are talking about 2 blown saves, not 10.

      • leowalter

        Not knee-jerk reaction,sweetleb. Jerk reaction.

        • Kip Winner

          I see my man Leo “Buster 09″ Mazzoni is adding to the ‘baseball’ conversation once again. I wouldn’t bust on anyone’s spelling when you have yet to master grammar, capitalization and the ‘space bar’ at the end of a comma.

          • leowalter

            Thank you Kip Winger…..

            • Kip Winner

              No, thank you Buster for you endless stream of hypocritical idiocy and one-trick pony act. I’m sure there will be more forth coming. I can’t wait.

              BTW, when will you replace NH or CH? I know the Buc’s will be in capable hands with you at the helm. In fact, I’m quite surprised they’ve been able to progress without having you on the payroll. Perhaps they read PP comments and embrace and facilitate your astute observations.
              No need to thank me. You’re welcome.

              • leowalter

                Isn’t it forthcoming Winger ? After all, we are striving for accuracy here.

                • Kip Winner

                  It absolutely is. I can’t help that the line ended and made it appear as two words. Nice try Mazzoni, but another fail. Next.

        • sweetleb

          ok, but this team right now is a sub .500 and it needs to make changes.

      • sweetleb

        grilli has been poor since his injury, and the pirates need an impact bat and polanco has a chance to be an impact bat and a plus fielder and a plus baserunner. also some super star type players spend very little time at AAA. machado, trout, puig.and longuria.

        • moose7195

          So because 4 players out of 500+ made it to the show with little AAA time, it suddenly makes sense to drag Polanco up? You call up a player when they are ready not because the team needs offense. And the injured Grilli from the end of last year is a different player than the Grilli we have now. I don’t see how it makes sense to combine them. He is healed now, you cannot consider them the same player.

          • sweetleb

            polanco is our best rightfield option right now. also he is ready. also grilli needs to be pulled from the closer role because he is not getting the job done and he is killing our bullpen 5 extra innings yesterday and 7 inning early in the season on two of his 3 blown save.

            • moose7195

              How can you know that Polanco is ready? I personally would like to see him struggle a bit, which is inevitable, to see how he makes adjustments at this level. Either way, 60 ABs isn’t enough to call anyone ready.

              Not getting the job done is an excellent reason to pull Grilli, but how can you make a definitive judgement that he can’t do it? Its 3 blown saves. Yeah, the timing of them sucks, but we are talking about 8 total games. If we judged players on 8 games, then Cutch, Marte, Pedro, hell everyone, would deserve demotions, and the Pirates would go through 150 players on their way to an 11-151 season. The sky isn’t falling because of 2 bad pitches, his ERA isn’t 130. Grilli may just be washed up, but none of us can know that right now. And honestly, he deserves the chance to prove he can still do it.

            • S Brooks

              In fairness, the hitters bear some responsibility in not being able to put up more than 2 runs in the first 9 innings of either game.

  • johndw28

    Are you kidding me? Grilli’s peripherals are awful and he’s nearing 20% of his innings pitched last year. He also doesn’t pass the simple eye test. His ERC is 5.4 and about double what it was last year. He has blown 3 out of 7 saves attempts and really was lucky not to blow the Cubs game? What is a decent sample size- another 5 save opportunities, 8 opportunities, 10? The worst part of this is we have so many other capable arms to in the pen and in our system.

  • http://www.acme-tv.com LongJohnSilver

    In one save this year Grilli loaded the bases before he got the final out. He has blown 3 saves so far after having only 2 all of last year. Since the All Star break last year, Grilli has struggled. His ERA in July was 6.35, missed August with an injury, and returned in Sept. with a 4.70 ERA. All the warning signs were there. Yet when I mentioned that I would have traded Grilli during the off season when his trade value was high, I was laughed at. Perhaps he will bounce back, but I think we have more then just a “small sample size” to look at.

    • moose7195

      Clearly no. How can you include pre-injury Grilli, and still-injured Grilli with post-injury Grilli? There are no warning signs. He was hurt so his stats should take a hit, he isn’t hurt now. The two samples are unrelated because of the injury. And the 2014 sample is too small to say anything for certain.

  • johndw28

    People keep talking about fastball- I think biggest problem is the slider

    In 2012 his slider was put in play 11.5% of time and had 18% swing and miss rate
    IN 2013 his slider was put in play 13.3 % of time and had 20.5% swing and miss rate
    This year his slider is put in play 21% of time and has only 11.9% swing and miss rate

    This may also tie in to the fact regardless of what stats say that people aren’t as worried about his fastball anymore.

    In any event my opinion is he doesn’t have a true out pitch anymore

  • http://hiddenvigorish.com Twitter@piratesvigorish

    Let’s start with this. Grilli has been losing velocity. He is 37 years old. The Pirates were concerned enough to start him slowly in Spring Training to conserve his arm. Is this a guy you want to be throwing on back to back days right now?

  • jalcorn427

    Not so topical, but a great article that anyone with an interest in studying the game should read.

    http://www.hardballtimes.com/students-of-the-game/

  • jschwartz

    The biggest issue in yesterday’s game is that Cole should have come out for the ninth. Other than that, Grilli’s been VERY shaky to start, but there is no need to switch roles yet. I’d like to see another 5 appearances before passing judgement. Also, the last two games were hanging sliders to a former MVP. It happens.

    • johndw28

      Saturday night wasn’t a hanging slider, it was a fastball. I’m glad to see you specified how many more opportunities he should get- you say 5 which I think is way too many but that’s just my opinion. If this year’s small sample size is any guide that should mean at least 2 more blown saves.

      • jschwartz

        You’re correct. Forgot that was a fastball. Still, hate him or not, Braun is one if the best in the league. Also, when I say 5 more outings I should state that if he has 2 or 3 straight terrible outings I would be persuaded to mix it up quickly.

        • johndw28

          I wasn’t trying to be smart. I’m just trying to clarify in my own mind what is a logical leash for Grilli for those who think the sample size is too small(a perspective I respect though don’t agree with). I think if he blows one of his next 2 saves that would be it for me.

          • jschwartz

            Definitely didn’t think you were. I’m willing to give him 5 outings. But, like you said, 1 blown save in 2 games could do it. Especially if he’s semi shaky in the other game.

  • Pie Rat

    I’m much more frustrated with McCutchen than Grilli.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=9322566 Mark Lambros

    Does anyone wonder if the relaxed spring training is to blame for all his bad peripherals? I’d think taking it easy there might put him a few innings behind his usual work. I haven’t watched the gun on every pitch, but is his velocity trending up?

    I think the point of the article is spot on. Regardless of who is right about velocity and decline etc., the only way to find out the true answer is to let him pitch and see what happens.

  • csnumber23

    In my opinion Grilli hasn’t looked the same since the arm injury. I think it’s mental, which is huge for a closer. I wouldn’t pull the plug on him yet but I think it’s time to consider going to Melancon. What I would do is move Watson to the 8th inning and have Melancon behind Grilli. Meaning if he struggle you could yank him before he blows the game. I hope Grilli turns it around but I would start preparing just in case he doesn’t.