Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Grabow feels better. Will he be?

Grabow's back. See what I did there?
The Cubs have recalled John Grabow off the 15-day disabled list and sent Mitch Atkins to reexamine a career choice that has seen him as less desirable than John Grabow in the eyes of the Chicago Cubs front office.

John Grabow of the 9.45 ERA. John Grabow who has exactly one run allowed to match each of his 23 appearances. The guy with the 4.95 BB/9 innings rate. The one allowing opponents to hit .362, to reach base at a .431 clip, and to slug .611 against him. Barry Bonds had a career OPS of 1.051; batters facing Grabow this year trail Bonds only slightly with an OPS of 1.042.

Most fans are understandably irate that Grabow is returning to this team, but I want to give him the benefit of the doubt that maybe, just maybe the problem in 2010 has been an injury that he's not bringing back with him. Because, if we find a way to wipe our memories clean of the filth that has been his season thus far, no one was this disappointed with John Grabow's status as a Chicago Cub.

Oh, I know all too well that many people hated the signing, which is why they always cite the total amount he's being paid over this year and the next ($7.5 million) as if he's being paid that much annually; that mistake is only half as bad as it's being made out to be. Still, many Cubs fans were unhappy that the Cubs paid that much money to a marginally serviceable reliever with a relatively lucky streak of late (at the time . . . clearly his luck has run out in 2010).

For his career, Grabow has had a WHIP floating between 1.2 and 1.5. In 2008 he had a deceivingly low ERA (2.84) because of an impossibly high LOB% (85.5). No one strands 85% of their baserunners. John Grabow did it that year. On the other hand, no one strands just 56.8% of their baserunners either, and John Grabow is doing it this year. His career rate is 73.4%, so 2010 definitely looks like more of an aberration than 2008.

That's just the thing. None of Grabow's career numbers are anything close to this bad. Something had to have changed. He's only 31. It's not a great leap to blame 2010 on an injury. Still, I remember thinking the same thing about Aaron Miles last year, and we all know how that ended up.

I'm not saying we should put supreme confidence in the guy, but it makes sense to give him a chance to prove he can still pitch. It's not like the World Series hangs in the balance, here.
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