A Quick Note on Jason Grilli

I haven’t been on the Internet too much over the last few days — who’dathunkit — but I managed to catch some “should of kept” [sic] sentiment regarding Pittsburgh Pirates closer Jason Grilli after he nailed down his second consecutive save against the Phillies. Grilli spent the 2011 season with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, with whom he posted a 1.93 ERA in 32.2 innings. He opted out of his contract on July 20 and signed with the Pirates, willing to give him a shot at the Major League level — a commitment the Phillies weren’t willing to take.

In retrospect, it is very easy to look distastefully at a 2011 Phillies bullpen that included Danys Baez (6.25 ERA) and Michael Schwimer (5.02 ERA), among others, but that bullpen was quite good. Their collective 3.45 ERA ranked seventh in the National League, but was just a few shades from being next to fifth-place Milwaukee (3.32). Four Phillies relievers tossed 50 or more innings, and here is how they fared:

When people speak of what could have been with Grilli, they think of his pitching prowess being utilized in high-leverage situations, but given how good the ‘pen was, Grilli would have been used as a mop-up (low-leverage) guy no matter how good he was. The Phillies simply were not in a position to offer him meaningful playing time at the Major League level, and certainly not in the type of leverage situations that he would have liked, which is why he jumped over to the Pirates.

Moreover, Grilli could just as easily have failed if the Phillies did offer him a spot in the bullpen. His 32 percent strikeout rate in 32.2 innings at the Triple-A level is not terribly predictive of what he would do at the Major League level. In hindsight, it is easy to say “See, 32 percent K-rate in the Minors; 26-37 percent K-rate at the Major League level after he earned a shot. How’d the Phillies miss that?” That same year, Phillippe Aumont struck out 35.5 percent of batters faced, but no one is petitioning for his promotion to the back of the bullpen. Schwimer had a similar strikeout-to-walk ratio and strikeout rate (3.91; 31 percent) and bombed when he was promoted.

The truth is, veterans with Grilli’s track record are complete gambles. Sometimes you hit, sometimes you don’t. When you’re at the Blackjack table, you don’t tap the table and bust, then lament your decision despite playing standard. It would have been nice to have Grilli’s arm contributing in the back of the ‘pen at a cheap price, particularly if it would have negated the possibility of Mike Adams‘ two-year deal or even Jonathan Papelbon‘s four-year deal, but the what-if scenario is one that doesn’t match up with the history.


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  1. TomG

    April 25, 2013 07:57 AM

    When you spend $12 million on an 8th-inning guy and you still end up getting Chad Qualls outcomes, something is definitely wrong. If the Phillies needed a relief pitcher capable of walking a guy hitting .167, they could have hired me for, say, a million, assuming I could clear that with my agent. That represents a savings of nearly 10%! (I’m using Phillies FO math here, of course.)

    It’s frustrating seeing the same things happen this year that happened last: They can’t get a guy in from third when there are fewer than two outs; the bullpen fails to lock down a lead in the late innings, especially when both the Braves and the Gnats lost. There for the taking was a full game on both of those teams and they couldn’t do it.


  2. TomG

    April 25, 2013 08:15 AM

    Okay, now that I have that out of my system, I wish to retract my previous comment, first of all because I know that in Phillies fan circles, uttering the name “C**d Q****s” out loud is believed to be tantamount to invoking Beelzebub. And with good reason, even though I gotta assume Satan has better hair than C**d Q****s because who doesn’t? So I just crossed myself three times with industrial strength tonsorial scissors and spit on the ground, which I think effectively cancels out the invocation.

    Also, despite what I wrote above, I still have hope for this bullpen and for Adams in particular. What can I say? I’m a starry-eyed optometrist (or perhaps ophthalmologist if I can get that degree).

    Also, too, I promised myself I wasn’t going to be that guy: the guy who goes to DEFCON One after less than a month of play.

    But most important, I promised myself I wasn’t going to be the type of guy who uses the phrase “that guy”. I didn’t want to be that guy, by which I mean that guy who uses the “that guy” phrase.

    So here it is only 9 a.m. and already today is an Epic Fail for me. Because now I’m that guy – the guy who uses the phrase “epic fail”.

  3. amarosucks

    April 25, 2013 08:26 AM

    Anyone with a Pearl Jam entry song is OK in my book

  4. LTG

    April 25, 2013 09:37 AM


    Perhaps we should refer to him as ‘The Californian Pitcher’ so as to avoid any curses, jinxes, or deaths by “accident”.

  5. TomG

    April 25, 2013 10:25 AM


    Or maybe just stop referring to him at all. Because nothing soothes a deeply disturbing psychological trauma quite as well as repressing it.

  6. Jonny5

    April 25, 2013 12:22 PM

    Tom, do not ever speak his name which should never be spoken again.

    Thank you in advance for your cooperation.

  7. bucn

    June 30, 2013 12:44 AM

    Well we lost hunter pence from you guys but we took your best closer. Grilli is a beast.

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