June 9, 2014
Week 11: The Ballad of Kevin Gregg
When bullpens struggle, it shows in big and spectacular ways. There are a few ways major-league teams in contention go about shuffling fungible assets, the most common fix being the acquisition of retreads—journeyman relievers whose careers crested long ago and are now in decline.
The reasoning is simple: If you look hard enough, you can still see the heights of a player’s career arc—the high-water mark of competence and perhaps even borderline brilliance still visible on the worn façade of a given pitcher’s life in baseball.
Proven closers get shots long after their effectiveness was at its peak. Francisco Rodriguez was long thought to be done by this writer. Nowhere in his declining peripheral numbers and increasing propensity to give up loud contact did I think he still had something left in the tank, but I should have known better than to completely write him off.
Recent baseball history is thick with journeyman relievers and obscure nobodies coming in and nailing down 30 improbable saves in a given season, and I didn’t have to look too far to find a prime example of a retread pitcher working hard to chase that dream and still be relevant in baseball.
Kevin Gregg was never a dominant closer, but he was one who earned “Proven Closer” status, and for that, he’ll always get a shot from organizations that might think he still has something left in the tank.
Gregg will always walk the dangerous WHIP line because he lacks command of his arsenal. The stuff was always good enough to miss bats, but his propensity to drift the fastball over the heart of the plate, leave the splitter up in the zone, or just simply flip up a spinning slider right into a hitter’s hot zone was frequently his undoing.
A Kevin Gregg save always felt precarious no matter the situation. Owning him was an exercise in patience, much like what the Jose Valverde show became. Despite all of that, he still turned in some decent seasons from a pure saves perspective, including 37 in 2010.
He’s working his way through the Marlins system right now and got off to an inauspicious start. If he makes it, it’s doubtful that he’ll overtake Steve Cishek for the closing duties—but there’s always a chance, even if it’s remote.
Old relievers always get a shot.
At this point, who knows with the Tigers bullpen. Joel Hanrahan is throwing off a mound now, but this is a team that is in contention and needs bullpen help post haste. I still think Joba gets another shot, but I’m leery of trusting him.
Tampa Bay Rays
New York Mets
David Robertson and Ernesto Frieri had some hiccups this week. I don’t see either outing as extremely alarming, but the Ernesto alarm will always be more sensitive given his tendency to leave a straight fastball over the heart of the plate from time to time.
LaTroy Hawkins survives another shaky week as the closer.