If there was one player on the 2010 Blue Jays who was predicatively unpredictable, it was closer Kevin Gregg. After spending just one season with the Chicago Cubs, and not a particularly great one either, Gregg signed with the Blue Jays on a one year deal with club options for 2011 and 2012. Gregg quickly moved into the closer's role converting six saves in six chances in April. He would keep the job all season despite some drastic ups and downs.
Converting or not converting saves is ultimately what closer's are judged by, despite the flaws of the statistic. Gregg's perfection in April was supported by his other, more telling, stats including his .82 ERA, .81 FIP and an unprecedented (especially for Gregg) .82 walk per nine innings. The good times quickly came to an end for Gregg and he was fortunate to still have the closer's job come July.
In May and June, Gregg made good on twelve of fifteen save opportunities. That wasn't far off his poor pace from 2009 that him blow seven saves in just thirty chances. Again, the rest of Gregg's numbers supported the interpretation of his questionable save rate. Gregg posted ERAs of 5.11 and 8.10 in May and June. His walk rate spiraled completely out of control, walking 17 batters in 19 1/3 innings of work. He did manage to keep setting down hitters on strikeouts in his toughest of times striking out 21 in those same 19 1/3 innings.
The month to month numbers are extremely small sample sizes, one outing can drastically alter the numbers for a months worth of work. But it's still hard to ignore the fluctuations. After striking out at least 9.49 batters per nine innings across the first three months, he struckout 6.52 in July and 5.06 in September. And in between July and September he mowed down 10.38 per nine.
Manager Cito Gaston was rewarded for sticking with Gregg through his spat of ineffectiveness, as Gregg posted FIPs of 2.87, 3.31 and 3.64 in the last three months of the season. The save statistic mirrored this return to success as Gregg settled down and closed out twenty of his final twenty-three save chances. Gregg somehow managed that 3.64 FIP in September despite walking AND striking out 5.06 batters per nine, not an easy feat to pull off, nor one that anyone should try and emulate in the future either.
Gregg worked justed 59 innings on the year, his lowest total in any full season dating back to 2004. The lighter work load might have contributed to his overall success, 2010 saw Gregg post both the second lowest ERA(3.51) and FIP(3.57) of his career. His 86 percent save conversion rate also happened to be the second best of his career.
Gregg rebounded nicely from 2009 and did so in baseball's toughest division. His proneness to wide performance fluctuations makes him a less than ideal closer. However, he's proven himself to be a durable reliever by making at least 63 appearances for four straight seasons now. He's also had a FIP under 4.00 in four of the last five years.
The Jays are probably not going to exercise his 4.5 million option for 2011 but he could still come back to the team if he were to accept an arbitration offer or resign for a lesser amount. Another season of 60-70 innings of better than average relief work would be worth somewhere around 3 to 3.5 million dollars, a number that seems fair to both sides. The Jays definitely got their money's worth in 2010, although it wasn't always easy to watch. If Jays fans can stomach another season of the unpredictable, they might get their money's worth again in 2011.