Who does John Grabow remind you of?
When it comes to baseball, people always love playing the "Guess Who These Stats Belong To?" game, so let's play. I submit to you the following set of statistics, each representing a unique relief pitcher:
Player A: 72.0 IP, 4.00 ERA, 7.63 K/9, 4.25 BB/9, 0.88 HR/9, .297 BABIP
Player B: 70.2 IP, 5.35 ERA, 7.51 K/9, 1.66 BB/9, 1.66 HR/9, .354 BABIP
Player C: 68.2 IP, 4.72 ERA, 9.31 K/9, 3.93 BB/9, 1.70 HR/9, .277 BABIP
If you're reading the body of this article, you probably glanced at the title first, so you know one of these three lines belongs to John Grabow (hopefully you ignored the tags, for later on). Actually, Grabow hasn't yet posted that line; instead, it's a projected 2010 total generated by Bill James (man, I'm not very good at this whole "suspense" thing, huh?). Take it for what it's worth, which to me is a decent starting point for a comparison to other pitchers.
I was inspired to do this comparison with some other notable former Cubs (oh look, a hint for B and C!) by Grabow's craptastic performance in his first two appearances so far this year. Yes, it's 1.1 innings, but already I'm reminded of painful memories from seasons past.
In just two short appearances, Grabow has evoked the worst skills of the last two most goat-like Cub relievers. By serving up a game-losing home run to Chipper Jones, I'm reminded of Bob Howry's 2008 campaign (Player B), and by walking the only batter he faced in Brian McCann I'm reminded of Kevin Gregg's 2009 season (Player C).
But look at those lines again. Howry threw fewer pitches outside the zone, sure, and Gregg strikes more batters out. But it's not the Ks or the BBs, or really even the BABIP that should stand out to you.
Over the course of their careers, all three pitchers have given up about one home run per nine innings pitched. But in the years we remember for Howry and Gregg, that rate skyrocketed.
It's likely that Grabow will suck in 2010. He walks too many batters and doesn't strike enough of them out (worse BB/9 rate than Gregg, same K/9 rate as Howry). But for him to officially take over as Goat Reliever, it'll come down to the number of home runs he allows -- which, at this rate, admittedly, could be pretty high. Hooray!