Justin Grimm proved to be one of the Cubs’ most reliable relief pitchers in 2014, leading the team in appearances (73) and relief innings (69).
This year, Grimm has shown himself to be one of the most valuable relievers in all of baseball.
Not bad for a player who missed the team’s first 26 games due to forearm inflammation.
Coming into last night’s game, Grimm has posted a 1.5 bWAR in 36.1 innings of work over the span of 45 appearances, which is tied for the 25th best among relievers. Impressive work, considering he has faced the fewest hitters (142) of any reliever to post a 1.5 bWAR or better this season.
Talk about making the most of your opportunities.
This puts him in pretty good company, as closers Jonathan Papelbon of the Nationals and Andrew Miller of the Yankees each sport a 1.5 bWAR.
In fact, Grimm’s bWAR is higher than Craig Kimbrel (0.8), Brad Boxberger (0.3) and Santiago Casilla (0.0) — each of whom have already notched 30-save seasons in 2015. Other closers whose bWAR ranks lower than Grimm’s include Greg Holland (0.3), Huston Street (1.0) and David Robertson (1.0) and A.J. Ramos (1.0).
Had he qualified by FanGraphs’ innings pitched standards, Grimm’s 1.1 fWAR would rank tied for 24th best. It would still rank higher than a handful of the aforementioned closers, including Casilla and former Tigers closer turned Pirates set-up man Joakim Soria — each of whom owns a -0.3 fWAR.
Part of what makes Grimm valuable to this Cubs team is his ability to pitch through multiple situations.
He has made 24 appearances and faced 80 batters when the score was within a run and has some good numbers to show in those chances. He has struck out 30 (37.5 percent) and walked 10 (12.5 percent) while only allowing a .186 opponents average.
When pitching with a lead, opponents have only hit .155 and slugged .224 while striking out 18 times (26.9 percent) against in 67 plate appearances against Grimm.
Pitching from behind? Not much of a problem for Grimm, who has held opponents in check for the most part as they have hit .104 and slugged .106 in 49 plate appearances.
In those situations, Grimm has struck out 27 (55.1 percent) and allowed only 1 walk.
Baseball-Reference’s calculations have Grimm limiting hitters to a .171 average and .268 slugging percentage against the 49 batters he has faced in high leverage situations. He has struck out 13 of those batters (26.5 percent), but walked 8 (16.3 percent).
FanGraphs’ numbers show Grimm to have worked to 31 batters in high leverage situations. In those chances, he has limited opposing hitters to a .231 average and .269 slugging percentage while striking out 8 (25.8 percent) and walking 5 (16.1 percent).
Grimm has faced 47 batters in situations deemed Late/Close by MLB, and the results are pretty good there, too. He has struck out 14 (29.8 percent), walked 4 (8.5 percent) and limited opponents to a .209 average and .256 slugging percentage.
No matter how it is sliced, Grimm has limited damage when hitters put bat on ball with low averages and has struck out more than his fair share of opponents. Given how he’s been used in critical mid-game spots, that’s been incredible valuable to the Cubs.