Saturday, May 16, 2009

How do you spell relief? $#!^@

I know. Kevin Gregg looks like a complete failure, which makes Jim Hendry look like a complete moron. As Ed, the genius behind, so eloquently tweeted, Can we charge a loss / to Kevin Gregg, even though / the Cubs won the game? 

Unfortunately for statistics, Gregg will get neither a loss nor a blown save, since the Cubs won and they had a four-run lead when Gregg entered. Aaron Heilman gets the tough-luck Blown Save after giving up a game-tying bloop with the bases-loaded, no-out crapfest he inherited.

After the game, Lou defended the rusty and ineffective 3-G goggle wearer, saying he hadn't been used lately and faced a tough Astro lineup. And others point to the fact that Kevin Gregg, like so many other closers, doesn't feel the same intensity when he enters the game in a nonsave situation.

So how should we look at this as fans? Is Gregg a failure? Is today's hit parade evidence that his acquisition was a major mistake? Is it time to usher Carlos Marmol into the closer role?

No. Whatever the side effects, go ahead and ingest that chill pill. 

This was one game, albeit one horribly abysmal game. He got no one out. He looked awful. He pitched like your mom. But Gregg is better than what he's shown so far, and he's definitely better than this one bad outing. One bad outing can lie to you, and so can general impressions. Statistics lie, too, but when you find yourself moping over the Cubs' bullpen woes, their truth can set you free. Here are some liberating Gregg stats to cheer Cub fans up and back them away from the ledge . . . for now:
  • Gregg's current ERA this season (6.06) is about 2 full points higher than his career ERA (4.08). Neither number inspires a ton of confidence, but his career ERA as a closer is in the mid 3's. 
  • Gregg has 18 appearances, just about 1/4 of what you would expect (on the high end) from a closer. It's not a huge sampling. For comparison's sake, check out Mariano Rivera's stats from his first 18 games of the 2007 season. They are eerily similar to Gregg's opening stats as a Cub. That's not to say Gregg is Mariano Rivera, just that it's too early to dismiss him as a failure.
  • Gregg has blown only one save this year, believe it or not. And he's actually striking out more than a batter an inning. (Mark that one down as the skewed results of a small sample. He's never done that over a full season in his career.)
  • While Gregg professes to prefer save situations, statistically the 9th inning is Carlos Marmol's worst (the 8th is by far his best). Opponents' batting averages go up 30 points in the 9th against Carlos, and their OPS is almost 200 points higher in the 9th than in the 8th.
Is Gregg the best closer in the world? Nah. But he'll do. Trust me, by the end of the year his stats will be respectable. (Although I would love to see Carlos develop a closer's mentality.) Dealing with crappy outings like this is what proves a closer. Nasty stuff wouldn't hurt, either, but I'll take resilience if I can get it.
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