More on Gregg
Typically on GROTA we like to wax the baseball philisophical, but we do from time to time have the ability to actually use statistics to prove points. With that in mind, let's revisit the Kevin Gregg saga one last time.
At this point, the majority of Gregg haters appear to be reactionary fans and pundits. I don't blame the pundits so much for that -- guys like Kaplan have to shout into a microphone for hours at a time in an attempt to break through to an audience that tunes in and out every few minutes. In other words, they are bound to express really stupid opinions, they are doomed to find themselves defending really bad ideas, and they will often find themselves under the microscope of fans who can exercise critical thought. Still, that's why we're here.
The argument against Gregg can be surmised as follows:
-He's not elite
-He gives up too many homeruns to be a closer
-His stuff is not overwhelming
-He hasn't earned it
-I hates him! I hates him forever!
Taking a closer look at Gregg and the other closers in baseball, we find the following:
He is indeed "average." His 21 saves put him at 15th in the majors, and his 81% save conversion rate is in the lower half of the top 30 closers, along with his ERA. However, we've never denied that Gregg isn't elite. The problem is that elite closers are really, really rare. I'm talking about the ones who save 90% of their games, who throw lightning rather than fastballs. But the question is, do teams need that to win the World Series?
Let's take a look at the last 7 teams to win the Series, and their closers.
2008 - Phillies, Brad Lidge (41 saves, 0 blown, 9 homeruns surrendered, 1.95 ERA)
2007 - Red Sox, Jon Papelbon (37 saves, 3 blown, 5 homeruns surrendered, 1.85 ERA, 93% save rate)
2006 - Cardinals, Jason Isringhausen (33 saves, 10 blown, 10 homeruns surrendered, 3.55 ERA, 77% save rate)
2005 - White Sox, Dustin Hermanson (34 saves, 5 blown, 4 homeruns surrendered, 2.04 ERA, 87% save rate)
2004 - Red Sox, Keith Foulke (32 saves, 7 blown, 8 homeruns surrendered, 2.17 ERA, 82% save rate)
2003 - Marlins, Braden Looper (28 saves, 6 blown, 4 homeruns surrendered, 3.68 ERA, 82% save rate)
2002 - Angels, Troy Percival (40 saves, 4 blown, 5 homeruns surrendered, 1.92 ERA, 91% save rate)
On the surface, we've got some elites in that crowd (Lidge, Pap, Percival) and some duds (Ishringhausen, Looper). Teams do not need an elite closer to reach the playoffs, or even to win a World Series.
Furthermore, this "he gives up too many homeruns" nonsense is just that - nonsense. It's true that Gregg has certainly served up an awful lot of homeruns this year, but from Brad Lidge and his 0 blown saves (despite the 9 homeruns he allowed) to Jason Isringhausen and his 10 surrendered longballs to Keith Foulke, who gave up 8-or-more homeruns in a season as a reliever/closer 7 times in his career, it is not the end-all be-all proof that Gregg's not reliable. In fact, it all comes back to the conversion rate.
As of today, that rate is hovering at 81%. Before the two ugly Florida games, he was at 88%. Chances are, he'll finish the year closer to 85% than to 80%, and unless Lou misuses him (see: calling him to pitch the day after a 40 pitch effort) he'll probably have an ERA closer to 3.50 than to 4.00.
So, again, Gregg is not exactly a world beater. He won't follow the trail of Gagne toward Cy Young glory. In fact, if Marmol is too wild to be effective in the 9th, which now appears to be the case, Gregg's tenure as the Cubs closer should probably only last this season assuming they have a shot at upgrading in the winter. But for now, all things considered, Gregg is the best option the Cubs have. Despite the ass-kicking dealt to him by the Marlins this past weekend, he's done nothing to lose the job and his work the previous three months was impeccable. And even if he's "merely average," there is a precedent of teams winning championships with closers worse than he.
Therefore, sorry FroDog, apologies Kap, but you're wrong if you want him booted and you're wrong if you think he'd be the reason the Cubs might not win it all. Gregg isn't a problem, but his use by Piniella may become one.