Kevin Gregg and Fun With Sample Sizes
Gregg then promptly followed that with an almost equally surprising ugly month of May. It wasn't shocking that Gregg had a bad month, he's had his share over the years, but everything seemed to collapse on him at once. After starting the year with 12 scoreless outings in his first 13, he was then touched for at least a run in four of his next seven appearances.
Gregg's FIP for the month of April was an outstanding 0.83—that almost exactly matched his .82 ERA. There was no luck on his side, he was just plain excellent—striking out 11.45 batters per nine innings while walking .82 per nine innings. He also didn't allow a homer in 11 innings of work. Most importantly for the Blue Jays, Gregg was a perfect six-for-six in save opportunities.
When the month of May finally came to a close, Gregg's strikeout rate was down to 9.49 per nine innings, still an excellent rate. His homer rate jumped up to 1.43 thanks to yielding a pair in 12 1/3 innings of work. What really fueled his struggles though was his whopping 6.57 BB/9 IN. That left him with a 5.11 ERA and a 5.29 FIP. The closeness of the two numbers removes any doubt that he had a run of bad luck, Gregg was just plain bad.
Where does that leave Gregg moving forward? He can't reasonably be expected to duplicate April's numbers. With his 2/3 of an inning, four run, five walk, melt down against the Rays on June 1st he'll have to settle down quickly if he's going to bounce back this month.
But Gregg has been unpredictable from month to month before, suggesting he could still have a couple months of effectiveness this season. Just last year, Gregg kicked it off with a 5.79 FIP in April but was able to follow it up with FIPs of 4.81, 4.33 and 3.31 over the next three months. He then promptly had his worst month in August with a 6.70 FIP.
The best example of Gregg's ability to look like a different pitcher many times in the same season would be his 2006 campaign with the Angels. It also happens to be Gregg's last season in the American League before this one. That year Gregg put up FIPs of 1.93 in April and 1.54 in July. Sandwiched in the middle were FIPs of 5.13 and 5.06 in May and June. He finished the year with an effective 3.38 FIP in August and another stinker with a 5.11 in September.
Even Gregg's full season numbers show his struggles with consistency. After allowing just .75 HR/9 IN and .39 HR/9 IN in 2007 and 2008 he allowed a whopping 1.70 HR/9 IN last year. In the same 2009 in which he had the worst homer rate of his career he had his best walk rate since 2006 and struckout more batters than innings pitched for just the second time in his career.
Getting guys to strikeout hasn't been a problem this year for either good Gregg or bad Gregg. He could live with May's 1.47 HR/9 IN, but he'll need to get a handle on the walks quickly. This isn't exactly the most exciting pattern of behavior for a team's closer. It also raises the question of how long the Jays should try and ride it out with Gregg in the closer's role. The walk rate is the key factor, if he can't stabilize it quickly the Jays need to look elsewhere at the end of games. Or just wait 'til next month and see which Kevin Gregg trots out from the 'pen.
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