[Apologies to all. My house got flooded last night (just about the time the game began, so I missed it as well) and if I recap at all, it won’t be until morning. In the meantime, here is my planned intro to my recap. Use it for pregame discussion. Go get ’em.]
Like all secret organizations (even secret organizations publicly available on the Internet) Braves Journal has a number of inside references, shibboleths, which allow the insiders to separate themselves from the outsiders. Usefully, since Braves Journal wants to make everyone feel welcome, it publishes a glossary in which all but the latest in-terms are defined.
The vast majority of these terms were the brainchild of Braves Journal’s founder and animating spirit from the beyond, Mac Thomason. All of us here at Braves Journal are aware that no matter how informative and amusing we are (or aren’t) our debt to Mac will never be fully paid.
But as great and inspiring as Mac was and continues to be, he was human and, like all humans, he wasn’t always right, although sometimes it takes 15 years to realize it. I’m going to propose that that one of his creations, one that I’ve used a lot, the Grybo, be retired. Not the concept mind you, which is evergreen, but the name. For I fear that Mac has slandered poor Kevin Gryboski, who, while not a great relief pitcher, actually wasn’t that bad in allowing inherited runners to score.
Let’s start with what Mac had to say about Kevin:
My favorite is probably this one, which is the sort of thing Mac could get away with. It was posted immediately after this game in which Gryboski had the worst WPA performance of his career, coming in with two men on and nobody out and a two run lead in the 7th and giving up two singles, a grounder misplayed by Furcal and then a double which scored 4 when Johnny Estrada made two more errors. He then got two more outs.
So, yeah, Gryboski did not have a good outing, but he certainly wasn’t helped by the three errors. What’s more, he actually gave up an earned run (and two unearned runs) himself, which is certainly out of the spirit of the Grybo.
Mac’s 2005 offseason assessment of Gryboski was more measured, blaming Bobby Cox for the way he used him more than Gryboski himself. But it contained this quote, the one that inspired the term Grybo:
“He was often brought in with runners on base to theoretically get a double play, but 23 of the 60 runners he inherited scored, which isn’t very good.”
Finally, when Gryboski was traded later that year, Mac kicked him on the way out the door:
Because here’s what he does: Bobby brings him in with two runners on and one out in the seventh. He gives up a double to score both runners, then gets two ground balls to get out of the inning. His ERA looks good and the guy he “relieved” gets screwed. Repeat.
This is just unfair. First, it’s unfair to criticize a player for the way he gets used by the manager. That’s on the manager. (Is it Will Smith’s fault he’s our closer? He owns what he does, but not how he’s used.) But secondly, while allowing 23 inherited runners to score out of 60 isn’t good, it isn’t historically bad, at least not by Braves’ standards.
My evidence? Baseball Reference actually keeps track of the percentage of inherited runners who score, or they have since 1954. Here is the list of all Braves pitchers who had over 100 inherited baserunners in their careers and the percentage they allowed to score, along with some other facts.
Kevin Gryboski is in the middle of the pack. And trivially different than, say, Gene Garber, a great Braves reliever. His 2004 (23/60) was somewhat above his career mark, but by less than 3 runs. What makes Gryboski stand out on this list is that he is only pitcher on this list to average more than 1 inherited runner per inning pitched. (Indeed, there are only 25 pitchers who pitched more than 100 innings in their careers and had more inherited runners than innings pitched.) On the Braves, only Peter Moylan comes remotely close, and he was outstanding in these situations. Gryboski was average, but kept getting put into the situation a lot because he was an extreme ground ball pitcher. But his BABIP was not particularly good – indeed it was higher than everybody but Devine, Jackson, and Wohlers. Bringing in a guy who walks a lot of guys (his walk rate is highest on this list) isn’t a strikeout pitcher and gives up hits to 30 percent of the guys who put the ball in play is a bad guy to rely on against inherited runners, even though he’s a ground ball pitcher – it’s the equivalent of pulling the infield in: you do it not because it helps your defense, but because you hope to get lucky.
Luke Jackson has a worse problem than Gryboski: He strikes out a lot of people (highest on the list) but has the highest BABIP on the list. Using him with inherited runners is another high-risk, high-reward strategy, but it’s not his fault how he’s used.
And let’s hear it for Luis Avilan. He sports a great 22% inherited runner ratio for his entire career, not just his Braves career. It would be even better but he’s let in all 3 inherited runners this year. Of the 260 pitchers who have inherited more than 300 runners, Avilan’s 22% is 7th all time.
Let’s give Mac his due, however. Among those 25 pitchers who specialized in inherited runners (more inherited runners than innings pitched, and at least 100 innings pitched in their career) Gryboski has the second-highest inherited runner scoring percentage of all time, trailing Kevin Wickander by a hair. So it is fair to say that for a guy used this much to induce double plays, he sure gave up a not of runs. The solution? Don’t use him that way.
So I’m retiring the term Grybo for my own use, and I welcome suggestions for an alternative… (anti-Avilan?) but leave Luke alone. It’s not his fault either.