2016 Blue Jays Season Review: Jason Grilli

Now that the season is over, the crew at Blue Jays from Away will take a look at the Blue Jays one by one and review how each player’s season went, whether he met expectations (or not) and look at how he fits into (what we think of) the Blue Jays’ plans going forward.


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Jason Grilli was the Blue Jays’ first acquisition to help bolster a bullpen that got the 2016 season off on the wrong foot. One might say that bringing Grilli on board added depth and confidence to a Blue Jays bullpen that was struggling to find itself beyond Roberto Osuna‘s presence as the closer.

On May 31, the Blue Jays sent minor leaguer (and Pickering, Ontario native) Sean Ratcliffe to the Atlanta Braves for Grilli, who was struggling, and some cash to help out with his $3.5 million contract. Still, while Grilli’s numbers with the Braves (5.29 ERA, 1.71 WHIP, 16.1% walk rate) were not inspiring, his strikeout rate was still high (28.4%). In the end, the Blue Jays traded a youngster who was quickly released by the Braves, for a pitcher who became one of their most reliable relievers.

Grilli eased his way into life as a Blue Jay, throwing a third of an inning on June 1 and another third on June 3 before throwing a complete inning, striking out three in an 11-0 loss to the Boston Red Sox on June 6. While he gave up a few runs in June, Grilli became a strikeout machine whiffing 17 batters in 9 2/3 innings that month and reduced those runs to just two in July while walking three and striking out 13 in 10 innings. Grilli struck out another 17 in August, walking only four and allowing two runs in 13 innings before a couple of four-run outings bloated his numbers in September/October.

Still, overall, Grilli raised his strikeout rate from 28.4% with Atlanta to 34.1% with Toronto while lowering his walk rate from 16.1% to 11.2% and dropping his ERA and WHIP from and 5.29 and 1.71 to 3.64 and 1.12, respectively.

The 6-foot-5 righty’s renaissance helped lengthen the Blue Jays’ bullpen and Grilli, recovered from his rough September, making five postseason appearances and giving up just one hit in 3 2/3 innings with three strikeouts and no walks.


Contract Status


Grilli had a $3-million option for the 2017 season which the Blue Jays picked up in the most no-brainer move of the offseason.


Emily Says


Jason Grilli was an extremely pleasant surprise for the Jays after they acquired him in May from the Atlanta Braves. He’d had a 5.29 ERA in 17 innings with Atlanta, and there were concerns about his high walk rate of 6.88 per nine innings.

The 39-year-old righty soon was established as the eighth-inning man and became a fan favourite in Toronto. He was exuberant on the mound, and thrilled to be reunited with former teammate Russell Martin, who had caught him when both were with the Pirates. Grilli’s first outing with Toronto began less than swimmingly, as he made an error on a pickoff attempt before he threw his first pitch (and was the first Toronto pitcher to ever do so). Luckily he settled in and recoded the out, without the error costing him.

His June ERA was 2.79 over 9.2 innings. He gave up nine hits, including a home run but struck out seventeen in that span. July was even better, as in ten outings of an inning each he allowed just two earned runs on two hits – both homers – for an ERA of 1.80. He also walked three and struck out thirteen. In August, he had two earned runs again, this time in thirteen total innings for an ERA of 1.38. He only allowed five hits and four walks in all of August, and struck out seventeen.

By September, he was beginning to tire, and had two rough outings in particular – on the 6th in New York he allowed four runs on two hits in two-thirds of an inning, then again the Yankees touched him up for four runs on four hits on the 26th, this time he only got one out. He began to be used in slightly lower-leverage situations, and only for partial innings. He had an ERA of 9.35 in September and his opponent’s batting average skyrocketed to .279 for the month.

Over his four months with the Jays, Grilli had an ERA of 3.64, a win-loss record of 6-4, two saves and two blown saves. His WHIP was 1.12, down from 1.71 with Atlanta, and he struck out 3.05 batters for every walk issued (58 to 19). He gave up eight home runs and allowed two of eight inherited runners to score.

Grilli made five postseason appearances, throwing the 8th inning of the wild card, and appearances in ALDS Games 2&3, and ALCS Games 3 & 4. He threw 3.2 innings total and allowed just one baserunner, a Roberto Perez single in Game 3 of the Championship Series. Grilli struck out three and helped the bullpen accomplish its feat of not allowing a single run for the entire ALCS.


Regular Season Grades


Jay: A-
Emily: A-


Postseason Grades


Jay: A
Emily: A+


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