Justin Grimm had the stuff to be a lights-out high-leverage arm, but was all too frequently one of the most frustrating and appropriately named pitchers in baseball. When he was locating his fastball, his thicc curves would twerk all over hitters and Father Time like like a modern-day Morgana. Those benders snapped off from 12 to 6 in an instant, getting dirty and inducing whiffs like a first-date pit check.
But when the heater wasn’t working, Grimm is exactly what the reliever’s chances were against big league hitters. It’s hard to get away with 4.39 BB/9 when you’re basically throwing twice as many strikeouts and giving up half as many home runs. Grimm’s 1.95 HR/9 was the highest mark of his career and ranked second-highest among all qualified relievers in MLB.
So things weren’t looking good for him heading into this season based on performance alone, but the Cubs’ roster sitution only made matters worse. Grimm had been an excellent bullpen arm in Chicago for a few seasons and his options allowed the team to shuttle him back and force as needed and to allow him to hit the reset button. The latter worked quite well for him in 2016 but wasn’t as effective last season.
There were several points during the 2017 season at which I was sure Grimm was going to be released, but the Cubs held out hope that the good-natured righty could put it all together again. But with no options left, his margin for error was nil. And when his results this spring at Mesa — he allowed four runs (all earned) on six hits (two homers) and four walks with two strikeouts — gave no indication that he’d be able improve, the choice was clear.
Grimm caught on with the Royals after being release by the Cubs and he looked for a while as though he’d get the last laugh. After allowing a run in his KC debut, he gave up only two hits with no walks and two strikeouts of his next four frames. And then the wheels fell. Like, really fell way the F off.
He logged only 2.2 innings over his last five appearances, allowing 16(!) earned runs on 10 hits (two homers) and eight walks with two strikeouts. That’s an absurd 54.00 ERA with matching 6.75 WHIP and HR/9 marks. The Royals put him on the DL on April 24 with the ubiquitous lower back stiffness, a malady that likely stemmed from whipping around so frequently to see where his pitches had been hit.
The Royals put him on the DL with lower back stiffness, a malady that likely stemmed from whipping around so frequently to see where his pitches had been hit.
As awful as his recent performance has been, though, I’ll give Grimm this: Dude hasn’t lost his self-confidence. Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register caught up with the pitcher when he was in town to face the Iowa Cubs on a rehab assignment with the Omaha Storm Chasers.
“I wasn’t having a terrible spring,” Grimm said. “I was working on things that they wanted me to work on — proving that I could do it. But I knew there was always a chance. But at the end of the day, I think we were butting heads a little bit — not to say like we were fighting.”
I get that this is typical rhetoric and all that, but what exactly was there to butt heads about? Unless Grimm was actually content to pitch poorly, that is. Although I suppose the Cubs could have been asking him to change something with his mechanics or approach, which could cause a little friction.
“We weren’t on the same page with where my value was at,” Grimm admitted.
This part I totally get, since the Cubs were probably looking for someone whose numbers were at least on one of the first few pages of the pitching leaderboards. But in all seriousness, I’m having a really hard time understanding what exactly he means here. Regardless of how confident you are, doesn’t there have to be a point at which reality has smacked you in the face hard enough to wake you up?
I should note that Grimm didn’t just focus on the way things ended with the Cubs. He told Birch that he’ll always view the team and city fondly, which you’d expect from a guy who came over as part of the rebuild and was there through the World Series title.
Joking aside, I would love nothing more than for Grimm to rediscover the form he displayed in 2015 and to find success with the Royals or elsewhere.