In case you haven’t noticed, Justin Grimm has been back up with the big league team and pitching out of the Cubs’ bullpen for about two weeks now.
Of course, I say back, because he’s been bouncing back and forth between the Triple-A Iowa Cubs and the Chicago Cubs a lot over the past 3-4 weeks (mostly because his remaining minor league option year made him the path of least resistance, but also because his performance had suffered, at least a little bit, earlier in the year).
Here’s how it all broke down: First, he was sent down to Triple-A when Brian Matusz made his start on July 31. Then, he returned to the Majors, replacing Jason Hammel who was sent to the bereavement list on August 3. Following that, he was sent back to the Minors when Jason Hammel returned on August 9. And finally, he was the one to replace Pedro Strop, who was sent to the disabled list with a torn meniscus on August 11.
But Grimm isn’t just back in a literal/physical/locational sense. No. Justin Grimm is also back to being the pitcher he was from 2014-2015. He’s made eight appearances in the month of August and he’s looked as good as he ever has.
Justin Grimm has appeared in eight games this month (with just one coming in between being sent up and down from Triple-A the final time), and during those 6.1 innings Grimm has not allowed a single earned run (0.00 ERA). Impressively, he’s given up just three hits (.130 AVG) and one walk (4.2% BB-rate)) against ten strikeouts (41.7% K-rate) during that stretch. That 10.00 K/BB ratio may come in a limited sample size, but it approaches a truly elite level and represents something we know Grimm is capable of achieving, given his stuff. In other words, it may not be sustainable, but it isn’t so outside our reality that you should dismiss it altogether.
Even with all the bouncing up and down on the roster, you actually have to go all the way back to June to find an earned run given up by Grimm. In his 14.0 innings since June 28, Grimm has a 0.00 ERA, a 36.5% K rate, and a 7.7% BB rate.
But it’s not just the results on paper providing the encouragement. Grimm has looked absolutely nasty on the mound, too. Watch him strikeout Brandon Moss not two weeks ago:
That was a 96.4 MPH fastball right down the middle of the plate, that Brandon Moss swung at about ten years late. According to Statcast, that (already very fast) pitch had a perceived velocity upwards of 97.7 MPH. Given Grimm’s other offspeed pitches, a fastball with that perceived velocity is going to dominate hitters.
But like I said, his offspeed stuff has been working, too. Watch Grimm fool Randal Grichuk just a couple games later with a curveball off the plate:
And notice the situation. Grimm had just entered a two-run game in the top of the seventh inning, with two outs and the tying run at the plate. This is that middle-innings closer spot that Maddon loved to use Grimm during last season and in 2014. Once everyone (namely Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon) is back and healthy, a productive Grimm in that role would further lengthen the Cubs bullpen. What an absolute strength it would be to go Grimm – Strop – Rondon – Aroldis Chapman from the sixth inning on throughout the playoffs. You certainly hope your starter could go more than that, but those are four relatively lights-out relievers when they’re needed.
But that’s the other benefit to having a productive Grimm right now. Strop and Rondon aren’t healthy. Grimm’s recent run of success, then, has been a life saver for a Cubs bullpen playing without two of their best three relievers. Hopefully, he can continue to pitch at this level through September and into the playoffs. Any one reliever is only so impactful, but it would not be a stretch to say Grimm could help the Cubs immensely come October. I, for one, am glad he’s back.
[Brett: Grimm is a popular topic today, as Evan over at Cubs Insider also has a lengthy take on the resurgent reliever, if you can’t get enough Grimm.]