Last year, the 37 year old Jason Grilli was dominant as the Pittsburgh Pirate closer. He got off to a terrific start, winning the Delivery Man of the Month award for April and May as he recorded a save in his first 25 opportunities. These numbers helped him to earn his first trip to an all-star game in his career. After beginning the season with just five previous saves, Grilli finished the year with 33 saves and an ERA of 2.79. He was the heart and soul of the Pirates’ “shark tank” bullpen that was ranked second in the National League in ERA. When the Pirates had the lead late, it was almost certainly a win. But, through the first three weeks of the season, Grilli has struggled to find the same command.
While his numbers are not terrible, there are several areas where Grilli has struggled. His command has not been as sharp as the previous year. This year through his first eight innings, Grilli has walked four batters. He is averaging 4.5 walks per nine compared to last season’s 2.3. His strikeouts are also down. While he is averaging 7.9 Ks/nine this season, last year he had a much more impressive 13.3 strikeouts per nine innings.
Because his command has not been as sharp, hitters have hit the ball much harder against him. His WHIP has risen to a 1.37, compared to his career best 1.06 last year. When facing the rival Milwaukee Brewers (a team that Grilli formerly dominated) Grilli has been torched for three runs in two innings pitched. Ryan Braun hit a game winning and game tying homerun off of him. In seven save chances, Grilli already blown three saves (one more than all of last season).
Recently, he has been placed on the disabled list due to an oblique strain. When he returns, he will look to capture the same magic that helped him roll through 2013. When Grilli returns he will look to recapture his magic and make the “shark tank” an unstoppable force again.
Statistics Provided by Baseball Reference