The Pittsburgh Pirates placed All Star closer Jason Grilli on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right forearm on Tuesday. It did not affect them in their contest against the Washington Nationals, in which they prevailed 5-1.
The 36-year-old is in his first season as a closer and he is blossoming but good. So far this season, Grill Cheese has an NL leading 30 saves, 153 ERA+ and 0.921 WHIP. The Pirates are 20 games over .500 at 59-39. This team hasn’t had a winning season nor a playoff berth since 1992. They showed signs of life in 2011 and 2012 before faltering. With Grilli in the closer’s role, they have raised the Jolly Roger time and time again, but that doesn’t mean they should hit the panic button with him being out.
Neal Huntington has done an amazing job as the general manager of this ball club. The moves he has made have really paid off. Perhaps the most notable is what he did this past offseason when he shipped another former All Star closer in Joel Hanrahan to the Boston Red Sox. They got prospect Jerry Sands in return, as well as reliever Mark Melancon.
It hasn’t just been Grilli who has made life at the box a nightmare for opposing batters. The 28-year-old Melancon earned an All Star selection this season. He has a 376 ERA+ and 0.803 WHIP. Granted, he was selected as a replacement, but he has just been downright nasty that he should’ve gone to Citi Field on his own merit.
Manager Clint Hurdle said Melancon is going to assume closer duties while Grilli is on the shelf, and if he does well, one would have to think he’ll get a full time job in that slot if not in Pittsburgh then somewhere else. Granted, relievers and setup men don’t always transition well into the closer’s job, but with what he is doing, Pittsburgh should be just fine without him.
At 3.07, they have the best team ERA in all of baseball. With 36 saves, only the Baltimore Orioles have more with 39. With a 1.18 WHIP, they are tied for the lowest in the game along with the Cincinnati Reds and Oakland Athletics.
Gerrit Cole hasn’t been as good of a rookie as Jose Fernandez or Shelby Miller, but it’s hard to be unhappy with his performance as he was stellar and got the win Tuesday against the Nats. All Star lefty Jeff Locke and his 168 ERA+ is a big reason why Pittsburgh’s pitching stats are in the shape it is in. They are firing on all cylinders and though their offensive stats as a whole aren’t quite as impressive, they are still putting up runs.
There is no doubt this team would love to have Grilli back out there on the mound closing games out there as soon as possible, but it’s far from the end of the world as he’ll likely be back soon, and the chances of an astronomical collapse that they fail to have a winning season again have to be slim to none.