FIRE UP THE GRILLI!!!!!
"I'm battling out there, man. Just not getting the job done right now." pic.twitter.com/KuxsPYPwm2
— Jonah Birenbaum (@birenball) May 3, 2017
Ahhh, but wait! That broken down Weber product was the old Jason Grilli. The Jason Grilli we last saw when he was
giving up four goals to Real Madrid getting blasted by the Yankees to the tune of four home runs.
Fresh off a breezy ten days off — IT HARDLY FELT LIKE NINE! — Grilli returned to the mound on Tuesday night and was… uh… not great?
I mean, he wasn’t bad. He gave up a single, induced a double play, then gave up a fly ball that Ezequiel Carrera caught with his ass practically up against the wall in left. It was fine. It was a step in the right direction. It’s just… shit, only giving up three bombs would have been a step in the right direction, y’know?
Redemption for Grilli won’t come in one inning. As much as he was starting to look himself again before the disaster against the Yankees — and he was starting to look himself again… sort of — his position on this team was on shaky ground even then.
One reason to think that he may have started to make his way back can be found in some of the data at Brooks Baseball. There we can see that he’s been pretty consistent in terms of the vertical movement on his slider, dating at back to at least the start of last July (which I used as a cutoff point when I was poking around this stuff because he was pretty great last July and August, so it seemed a good baseline).
At the time of this writing Brooks hasn’t included Tuesday’s outing in Grilli’s data for July 2017, meaning that all we see in the graph below for that data point is the disaster against the Yankees. We can however see the data from MLB on Grilli’s Tuesday outing on another page at Brooks, and it looks a whole lot more like where he’s normally at.
Now, I must acknowledge that, with multiple games being averaged out in all the other data points above, this graph is a bit misleading. The samples for those other months are much bigger than the one for July, and if you switch the graph to display on a game-by-game basis, there are others outings he’s had where his slider’s vertical movement looks more like it did in his Yankee disaster — those are just getting smoothed out by looking month by month.
Interestingly, though, one of the outings that jumps out for his slider being similarly high was on September 16th, against the Angels. The result: not nearly as catastrophic, but he walked Jefry Marte, wild pitched him to second, got a ground out, a strike out, then walked Rafael Ortega before Roberto Osuna had to come in and bail him out with four out save. Not great!
Was the slider even the reason he was being torched by the Yankees? I have no idea, but it was the thing that immediately stood out as being abnormal… y’know, apart from his getting the piss beaten out of him. And, on the positive side of things, on Tuesday it at least seemed — for what little we can tell in such a small sample — as though he’d righted the ship.
On the other hand, one could argue that the ship hasn’t been right since around the start of last September, and the outlier was the little blip Grilli had when, for about 13 appearances and 10 innings heading into the Yankees outing, he was actually pretty good. It’s not unfair to think that, or to think — with Devon Travis now out indefinitely, Steve Pearce not seriously being a solution at second base, and Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney continuing to hit like Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney — that Grilli might even end up the odd man out if the club feels it’s finally time to give Jason Leblebijian a shot. (Even if it’s just a DL trip for right-arm shittiness, like it seems powerfully clear is the case with J.P. Howell and his right-arm currently.)
What is unfair, and what one can’t argue is something I’ve seen at least a couple people say — usually, but sometimes not even, mostly jokingly! — and that’s: the Jays are just waiting until after their Father’s Day Fire Up the Grilli barbecue apron giveaway and then they’re going to turf him.
I mean… hopefully I don’t have to actually explain how ridiculous that is. Hopefully nobody actually believes that’s a real thing that could happen. The marketing department does not hold any sort of sway over baseball operations. If it did… if the front office right now is in the middle of letting this team play at a disadvantage, with essentially a 24-man roster, for two weeks because of a fucking barbecue apron, they all should be fired on the spot.
Fortunately, that won’t be necessary, as the whole idea is fucking bonkers. Maybe even as bonkers as thinking that Grilli is genuinely, at age 40 years and 7 months, going to dig deep and suddenly find it again.
No, but really! It could happen! It’s just, like I say, not going to take a single inning. Even so, at the very least, Tuesday was a step forward.