I can’t speak for all Oriole fans, but I was very excited when I heard over the off-season that Baltimore acquired closer Kevin Greggfrom the Oriole-killer Toronto Blue Jays. I remember Gregg with the Marlins and how effective he was at shutting the door on the opponents.
Over the last five seasons, Gregg has become one of the stronger, more reliable closers around the American League and honestly, I was somewhat shocked when the Birds landed him in the winter for two years and $10 million.
It’s obvious he possesses a winning mentality, and that may be his problem this season. Gregg seems like the type of hurler who needs to be on a winning team to be successful. His performance as a Chicago Cubs in 2009 as he blew seven of his 31 save opportunities, only recording 23 saves.
This season, however, Gregg has not lived up to my expectations or his standards I’m sure. Gregg is on pace for 25 saves this season, which would be the second lowest over his last five seasons, the lowest aforementioned. I was expecting at least 30 saves out of the veteran right-hander.
Gregg sports a 0-1 record with the third lowest ERA on the Orioles pitching staff at 3.79 behind set up man Jim Johnson and reliever Koji Uehara. He’s saved 16 of the 20 opportunities he’s had this year, but he’s appeared in 39 games.
Buck Showalter uses Gregg almost as much as a reliever and that’s because the Orioles have not played well in close games this season. When the Birds win, they more often than not the games are non-save opportunities for Gregg and the rest of the staff.
One of the problems this season with Gregg has been that he works in situations that are not high-pressure and he has runs to work with. I’ve always heard that closers need to pitch with the game is on the line to get the adrenaline pumping so they can concentrate harder and be more effective.
The Orioles have the second lowest number of saves in the major leagues to the Houston Astros and the fewest in the American League this season with 18 (the average in the majors this season is 25 saves).
There have only been 31 overall save opportunities this season through 97 games and if the Orioles are expecting Gregg to perform more consistently, it’s simple: the Orioles need to play stronger in close games and give him a chance to work in his type of situations.
Gregg’s tossed 38 innings, allowed only 35 base hits 16 earned runs while walking 26 and only striking out 33 on the year. Obviously, he is not a strikeout pitcher as he records less than one an inning, but his base hits are less than his innings pitched, which is important.
Another problem Gregg has run into this season has been walks surrendered; he’s accumulated such a large number of walks because he nibbles on the corners and will not given in to any hitter in the league, as we saw with Big Papi in Boston a couple of weeks ago.
Some other problems that have plagued Gregg this summer walks per walks, homeruns and strikeouts per innings, and his strikeout to walk ratio.
Over his career, he’s averaged only 3.9 walks per nine innings and this season it sits at 6.3. He’s allowed five homeruns on the season already and only surrendered four all of last year. He’s allowed 1.2 per nine innings, which is .3 above his career average of .9.
Gregg’s strikeout numbers are down a bit this season at 7.8 per nine innings (his career average is 8.3 per nine innings). And, his strikeout to walk ratio is down at 1.23, well below his 2.12 career ratio, and one season with the Angels it was as high as 3.38 and he’s twice thrown at least 3.00 strikeouts per walk in a season.
Just to compare his WHIP with Koji Uehara’s if you read my last blog post, Gregg sports a 1.62 WHIP and Koji’s continues to lead the majors at .70. So, he allows more than double the amount of hits and walks as Uehara over nine innings. His WHIP is well above the league average of .131.
On a good note, Gregg’s ERA this season at 3.79 is lower than his career ERA of 4.03. Over a full season, his best earned run average is .341, but he has endured three seasons with an ERA over four.
Opponents are hitting lowly at .248 against Gregg, which is the third lowest on the team as well. So, according to his numbers, he’s ranks third on the Birds pitching staff this season, but expectations coming into 2011 were much higher for him set by fans and the organization.
Last season with the Jays he lost six games and won only two, but converted 37 of the 43 save chances in 59 innings and he held a 3.51 ERA. Both his saves and ERA were career-bests for Gregg. Four of those saves were against the Birds as the Jays preyed on the Birds last year.
Before he was shipped to the Windy City in 2009, he spent two seasons in South Florida with the Marlins and saved 61 games over his time with the fish. His first season with Florida in 2007 was his first season as a closer for a big league team.
Gregg broke in with the Angels in 2003 and helped the Angels win the World Series against Barry Bonds and the San Francisco Giants. Gregg actually began his career as a starter in Anaheim. He started three of the five games he appeared in that season and went 2-0 with a 3.28 ERA in 24 innings of work.
While with the Angels, Gregg only was given the chance to save three games in his four seasons with the team and converted only one game. Over his career there, he went 11-8 with a 4.31 ERA and started only eight of the 125 games he appeared in.
Orioles fans, as I was, I’m sure thought and hoped that the Gregg who saved 37 games for the Jays in the previous season would be the pitcher who showed up at Orioles camp. But, this season has not gone his way and I think that’s not as much to blame on him as it is the Orioles ineffectiveness in close contests.
Every time Gregg makes his way from the bullpen in a save opportunity, it’s always hard to be comfortable watching the game because he has a way of pitching his way into tough jams and the games always seem closer than they should be.
Tonight was a great example of what I’m talking about. He gets the first two outs of the inning easily and then allows a line drive double to the right center field gap in a one run game allowing the tying run to make it to scoring position, but eventually records the final out.
Gregg is signed through next season with a team option for 2013 and he is only 33 years of age. I think that he can turn around his season; he just needs to be given more chances to do what he does best- save baseball games.
So, although he has not fulfilled expectations around the clubhouse and across the country, he’s still been one of the more consistent closers for the Birds since 2009 when now Atlanta Braves’ reliever George Sherrillwhen he saved 31 games for the Birds.
Last season, right-handed hitter Alfredo Simon led the team with 17 saves all of last season and Sherrill saved 20 games for the Birds in 2009 before being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Yes, Gregg needs to step up his performance on the mound and prove to the Showalter and the fans that he can do the job as a closer. If he cannot finish games anymore, I say move Koji into that role and shift Gregg to a reliever.
Follow me on twitter Alex_VanRees
About the Author
Written by Alex Van Rees
I am 22 years old and I recently graduated from James Madison University this May with a BA degree and a major in journalism. I live in Reston, VA, about 20 minutes outside of Washington. I am looking for an entry-level position with a sports media company where I can demonstrate my writing, interviewing and technical skills to better the organization.