FanPost

The Greatest 100 Royals of All-Time - #96 Jason Grimsley

The 96th Greatest Royal of All-Time is unfortunately Jason Grimsley

Jason Grimsley spent three and a half seasons as a reliever for the Royals, and during that time was considered their most dependable reliever which tells you more about the Royals bullpen at that time than Grimsley himself.

Throughout his career, Jason Grimsley was a pretty wild reliever. Upon observation, I think it was due to his heavy sinker, which he seemed to have little control over, but which could be devastating when thrown near the strike zone. In an April game in 1991 for the Phillies, he uncorked four wild pitches in one inning. Later that month, he set a MLB record by throwing a wild pitch in his ninth consecutive game. He finished third in the NL in wild pitches, despite throwing just 61 innings. He was then traded to Houston for Curt Schilling. Straight up. Let that sink in for a second.

Grimsley bounced around from the Astros to the Indians where he was pretty terrible for some pretty good Indians teams. His greatest value lay in protecting slugger Albert Belle. In 1994, White Sox manager Gene Lamont suspected Belle of using a corked bat. The umpires confiscated Belle's bat in the umpire room to be examined by the league office. But the bat was clean and Belle was never reprimanded.

In 1999, Grimsley finally revealed that he took a clean bat from teammate Paul Sorrento and climbed through an escape hatch in the ceiling of the clubhouse, crawled to the umpire room, and switched out the bats.

''I was asked whether I would tell the story if there would be no repercussions,'' Grimsley said. ''I figured it was about time.''

The Indians dealt him to the Angels in 1996. After an awful year for the Angels, he signed with the Tigers, who released him before the season even began. The Brewers signed him to their minor leagues, but after a 5.70 ERA in AAA they dealt him to the Royals for P Jaime Brewington. The Royals put him in Omaha where he continued to flounder with a 6.68 ERA, so they let him go at the end of the year. He spent a year with the Indians AAA affiliate, before signing with the Yankees, where he magically revived his career.

In 1999, at age 31, Grimsley had the best season of his career since his rookie season. He posted a 3.60 ERA in 75 innings for the AL Pennant winning Yankees. He was less effective the next season as he earned a World Championship ring with the Yankees, so they let him go. He signed with the Royals, where he would finish in the top ten in games pitched for the next four seasons. He was dealt to the Orioles in 2004 for Denny Bautista.

For most of the Tony Pena era, any time a Royals pitcher got into a jam, Pena would turn to Grimsley's help. During the Royals magical 2003 season, Pena turned to Grimsley 76 times, leading Jason to finish third in the league in relief appearances. Grimsley had a 4.14 ERA in the first half of the season, but the wear and tear of being used so much led him to a 7.20 ERA in the second half.

Grimsley's ERA would lead Tony Pena and many Royals observers to conclude that of course, Grimsley was the only real option in the bullpen for the middle innings before closer Mike MacDougal in the 9th. Relievers overall had a 5.54 ERA for the Royals. Consider the other bullpen ERAs:

D.J. Carrasco 4.82 in 80.1 IP
Kris Wilson 5.33 in 72.2 IP
Sean Lowe 6.25 in 44.2 IP
Curtis Leskanic 1.72 in 26 IP (acquired in July)
Alan Levine 2.53 in 21.1 IP (acquired in July)

Of course Jason Grimsley was the best option in the 7th and 8th innings, right?

Wrong.

Grimsley, quite frankly, was a matador's cape in 2003. Baseball Prospectus has tabulated a statistic called Adjusted Runs Prevented from Scoring (ARP). Basically its a measure of the number of runs that a reliever prevented over an average pitcher, given the situation when he entered and left each game, adjusted for league and park. In 2003, 676 pitchers appeared in a game (although in fairness, not all of them appeared in relief, giving them an ARP of 0.0). Out of 676 pitchers, Jason Grimsley was 666th. His ARP was -13, meaning that a simply average pitcher (say for example, Ryan Dempster in 2003) would allow 13 fewer runs in similar situations as Grimsley. Among the pitchers that were actually worse than Grimsley that year were Jose Mesa, Albie Lopez and Jose Jimenez.

Grimsley was quite possibly historically bad in 2003. Tom Ruane at Retrosheet.org has tried to take a "Value Added" approach to measure how players perform in certain situations and measure how they left a situation in comparison to how they received that situation. In "Value Added Pitching Versus Runs Below Average", he measures how a reliever fares in certain situations in comparison to the league average. Since 1960, Grimsley had the ninth worst season ever by a reliever in this measure (interestingly enough, Dan Quisenberry's 1987 season is the second worst all-time).

To be fair, it wasn't as if Tony Pena had a lot of great options until Leskanic and Levine were acquired.

2003 ARP for Royals relievers

Leskanic 9.8
Levine 4.9
Wilson -5.2
Carrasco -5.9
Lowe -8.0

Still, Grimsley seemed to be the worst of all options. It wasn't that Grimsley was a terrible pitcher. But he certainly wasn't nearly as good as Pena thought he was, and was probably misused and overused. The Royals had a pretty improbable and lucky season in 2003, but I'll always wonder what might have happened had their manager not been sabotaging their chances by bunting and misusing the pitching staff.

In 2006, a story surfaced that federal agents had raided Jason Grimsley's home looking for Human Growth Hormone and other performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). Grimsley allegedly told agents he had used Deca-Durabolin, amphetamines, Human Growth Hormone and Clenbuterol in 1998 to recover from a shoulder injury.

MLB suspended Grimsley for 50 games, but rather than face his suspension, Grimsley simply retired. His affadavit to federal officials had several redacted names of other players he accused of using PEDs, and the Los Angeles Times reported some of those names included some of the biggest in baseball - Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Miguel Tejada.

''I was asked whether I would tell the story if there would be no repercussions,'' Grimsley said. ''I figured it was about time.''

Jason Grimsley was never afraid to cheat so long as there were no repercussions.

This FanPost was written by a member of the Royals Review community. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the editors and writers of this site.

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