Jason Grilli re-signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates on a two-year, $6.75 million deal, and the man known on Twitter as @GrillCheese49 is pumped: "So.....I have reached my decision! Time to celebrate and get back to work." The 36-year-old might just have the most apropos Twitter handle in the game, as he has transformed from journeyman recovering from a career-threatening quad injury to lockdown reliever (and potential closer) on the strength of his cheddar.
Grilli's fastball was pretty good after the Bucs plucked him out of Triple-A Lehigh Valley during the summer of 2011. He averaged 92.4 MPH with the pitch and got hitters to swing and miss about 19% of the time, slightly above the 18% average for relievers. But he toasted hitters high in the zone after adding an extra tick of velocity in 2012.
Sitting at 93.6 MPH with his fastball, Grilli employed a simple yet deadly approach. He fired his fastball about 71% of the time, daring hitters to put good wood on pitches placed at the letters:
Grilli's fastball location in 2012
Grilli threw about 48% of his fastball high in the strike zone, the tenth-highest mark among relievers and well above the 34% average. Suffice it to say, batters couldn't handle his high cheddar:
Opponent contact rate vs. Grilli's fastball in 2012
Overall, Grilli's 28% fastball miss rate ranked just outside the top 10 and bested that of better-known relief aces like Jonathan Papelbon and Jason Motte:
Highest fastball miss rate among relievers, 2012
|Pitcher||Fastball Miss Pct.|
|J. J. Hoover||30.6%|
|MLB Avg. for RP||19.7%|
Grilli could start racking up saves himself if the Pirates find a trade partner for Joel Hanrahan, who figures to earn around $7 million in 2013 before hitting free agency. The control woes that hindered Hanrahan's career with the Nationals cropped up again last year, as he issued the highest walk rate (5.43 per nine frames) of any qualified reliever this side of Carlos Marmol. With a souped-up fastball, @GrillCheese49's stuff should play just fine in the ninth.