By Wesley James
Blue Jays from Away
Now that the season is over, the crew at Blue Jays from Away will take a look at the Blue Jays one by one and review how each player’s season went, whether he met expectations (or not) and look at how he fits into (what we think of) the Blue Jays’ plans going forward.
In 2016 Jason Grilli owned the 8th inning but in 2017 fans got a little nervous when the Toronto Blue Jays attempted to “fire up the Grilli.”
Traded by the rebuilding Atlanta Braves in May of 2016, Grilli was, when successful, easy to love. He was a childhood fan of the Blue Jays because of his roots in Syracuse and a journeyman pitcher defying the laws of aging in his 40th year. He could also strike batters out with a high swing and miss rate despite commanding a fastball in the low 90s.
In 2016 he had a 3.64 ERA over 42 innings with the Blue Jays, sporting a 1.11 WHIP and 12.4 strikeouts per nine innings. Good enough to stabilize the bullpen and help the Jays make the postseason.
2017 was a different story. In 26 games Grilli ballooned his ERA to 6.97 with a WHIP of nearly 1.6. He nearly doubled his hits per nine innings and allowed as many home runs per nine as any reliever in the majors. With a strike out per nine of 10 he could still strike ‘em out - as long as they didn’t take it over the fence first.
The real low point occurred June 3 when Grilli - long demoted from his set up roll after an atrocious April and May - was asked to take the ball in the 8th inning. With the Jays’ rotation falling apart due to injury and the Jays’ bullpen falling apart due to over use, Grilli allowed four home runs and recorded only two outs.
So, what happened?
Signs of a bad 2017 season existed in 2016 when over his last 13 games Grilli had a 10.45 ERA, mostly coming in five noticeably bad appearances in September. When at his best Grilli uses a slider about a third of the time to compliment his fastball. He pitched more innings in 2016 than he had since 2008 and signs of fatigue were showing in the depth and command of his slider. Those problems followed him into the 2017 season. With only a low 90s fastball to trust, Grilli’s game went off the rails in a hurry.
The Blue Jays planned for a Jason Grilli ‘fire up the Grilli BBQ apron’ Giveaway Day on Father’s Day in mid June. By that June 3 outing, however, some began to wonder if he’d still be a Jay by that point. He made it to Father’s Day but was traded July 2 to Texas for a minor league prospect and cash. He gave Jays’ fans an apron instead of a ring. So it goes.
Currently a free agent.
2017 Regular Season Grades
Jay Blue: F
Wesley James: F
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The 2017 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook is now available! Visit the Handbook page for more information!