The slider-slinging reliever has been a topic of discussion, as most closers are in baseball.
After a duel with Ken Giles for the closer title, he lost, becoming the set-up man to Giles, occasionally ending games. All in all, Gregerson provided some solid performances, and some ill-timed meltdowns for the Houston Astros in 2016.
The 2016 Campaign
From a statistical standpoint, Gregerson did not stray far from the numbers he produced in 2015. In fact, Gregerson allowed a lower batting average (.183) than he allowed in 2015 (.213). He allowed the same amount of earned runs (21) as he did in 2015, and only lost one more save opportunity than he did last year. So, in consideration f his stats, Gregerson was a solid reliever who performed consistently.
I was in attendance Septemebr 26th, when the Astros played the Mariners at MMP. At the time, it was a must-win game for the Astros to keep their playoff hopes alive. Collin McHugh put together seven innings of solid pitching and turned the game over to the bullpen with a 2-1 deficit. Hoyt later allowed on more insurance run to the Mariners, setting up a 3-1 ninth inning. The Astros lineup found a way to tie the game 3-3, and Ken Giles followed their surge with a shut out tenth inning. The Astros were not going quietly into that September night, and I was glad I was witness to their effort.
More from Climbing Tal's Hill
- Just how much better is the Houston Astros playoff rotation than the rest?
- Houston Astros: A Lineup Change to Spark Offense
- Astros prospect Hunter Brown throws 6 shutout innings in debut
- Always faithful Astros World Series champion Josh Reddick defends the title
- Michael Conforto declines Astros’ 2-year, $30 million offer
The top of the eleventh inning arrived, and Luke Gregerson took the mound to give the Astros a chance. He found a way to get two outs before facing Robinson Cano. He took Cano to a one ball, two strike count. It appeared than Gregerson would hold strong against the Mariners and give his team a chance to win in the bottom of the inning. As I sat behind home plate, near the visitor’s dugout, I watched Cano launch a hanging slider in the upper deck of the left field section of MMP. I, like most Astros fans, had our hopes crushed.
The feeling I had in that moment, is the feeling I have anytime I hear the name Gregerson.
I know what you’re thinking, this is not what this article is about. However, this is a perfect example of what we have come to expect from Gregerson. He is hit or miss, and when he misses, opponents hit.
Gregerson is a junk-ball reliever. He will not overpower hitters. He will rely on the braking pitches and off-speed variety to keep hitters off-balance. The biggest problem junk-ball pitchers face is when the junk doesn’t have any “funk” on it. When the curveball does not break, the slider does not slide or the change-up doesn’t change, these pitchers are in trouble.
When I look at that at-bat against Cano, Gregerson did everything right. He forces a pitcher-friendly count, but failed to add the “funk” to his junk. He hung a slider against one of the best hitters in baseball. Unfortunately, he capitalized and drove in the run that ultimately won the game.
I expect Gregerson to keep up the same level of performance as he did in 2016. He was a serviceable reliever and provides a great option as a set-up man to the closer. He provides that one inning of relief to keep the Astros in a game. However, I do expect Gregerson to work harder at situations like he faced against Cano, and be more aggressive in his approach. He must understand his limitations as a reliever and know he can’t hang pitches over the heart of the plate. The worst thing Gregerson could have done was to overthrow that slider and bounce it to Castro. I expect his ERA to stay in the around the 3 run range, the batting average allowed will be around .220 and he will pitch around 60 innings during the year, in the later part of games.
All in all, Gregerson will remain a factor in the Astros bullpen in 2017, and will be best used as a set-up man.
***Statistics and Data provided by MLB.com and Baseball Reference***