“Jason Grilli is fun, man. He just goes out there, brother, and he gets into it. Gruntin’. Hoppin’. Screamin’. Fist-pumpin’. Fastballin’. Whoooo! Fire up the grill, blast some dad rock, setup Osuna, and let’s bring this one home!”
– Toronto Blue Jays fans ca. mid-2016, presumably
Over 38 appearances between May 19th and August 28th of last year, Jason Grilli allowed just five earned runs.
He allowed just 16 hits in 36.1 innings. He walked 16, but offset it by striking out a remarkable 53. His strand rate was a ridiculous 97.1%. He allowed just three home runs in those 38 appearances. His ERA was 1.24.
He was spectacular. And considering that the first five of those appearances came with the Atlanta Braves, who then traded him to the Blue Jays for virtually nothing, he was found gold. Doubly so because he came with a dirt cheap $3 million contract option for 2017.
He was an almost instant hit with the fans, too. You likely know the story: his dad, Steve, had pitched 2.1 innings for the 1979 Blue Jays, and spent four years with the Jays’ Triple-A affiliate, then based in Syracuse. After hanging up his cleats, he stayed in Syracuse and opened a bar there. Young Jason was a lifelong Blue Jays fan. And as the team marched to the 2016 playoffs, Grilli pitching the eighth inning seemed a perfect fit.
No, he was a perfect fit. Maybe he still is, even. But around the start of last September, just as the Blue Jays wobbled as a collective, Grilli dealt with a sudden shakiness of his own. Out of nowhere he looked… well… a lot like he does right now — which, with now 10 earned runs in 8.2 innings, along with 10 hits, seven walks, and four homers allowed, uh… isn’t good.