Chicago Cubs: Justin Grimm made the grade in 2015


The Chicago Cubs got just what they hoped for out of middle reliever Justin Grimm: they gave him the ball a lot and he got outs.

The Chicago Cubs know it and we know it: middle relievers are like a little like car tires, you only really notice them when they’re not working right. So if Justin Grimm’s contributions to the team were missed this past season—a season that saw the Cubs surprise many by winning 97 games and going deep into the playoffs–we should consider that a good thing.

If we didn’t notice Grimm much it meant he was quietly doing his job coming out of the Cubs bullpen.

So what did he do? Grimm appeared in 62 games. His ERA was under 2.00. He struck out 67 of the 204 batters he faced this season. He didn’t give up a run from July 21 through August 29.

These are the kinds of numbers that make it easy for fans to forget about a middle reliever.

Seems a little unfair, doesn’t it? The guy pitches great all season, and we celebrate that we hardly noticed. It’s clear what Grimm needs to rise in notoriety: a PR campaign jump-started with a killer nickname.

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The name should be fitting. So let’s look at what brought Grimm his success, and base our nickname on that.

There’s an obvious option for a nickname given Mr. Grimm’s last name: Reaper. It’s a fitting name given Grimm’s ability to cut down batters. He averaged over 12 strikeouts per nine innings while opposing hitters batted a paltry .175 against him.

But I would also imagine that a nickname like “Reaper” implies a meanness exemplified by hit batters. Grimm hit just one batter this past season. So let’s look at other options.

Justin shares a last name with the famous German writing duo, the Brothers Grimm. The Grimm brothers wrote or re-wrote many of today’s most well-known fairy tales (“Hansel and Gretel”, “Cinderella” and “Snow White”).

One memorable figure from the Grimm canon of works is the wolf from “Little Red Riding Hood”. So, how about “The Big Bad Wolf”? Grimm is a sizeable figure at 6’3”, 210 lbs.

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He threw his big bad fastball, which averages over 95 MPH, over 56% of the time this past season. His fastball was bad enough for Grimm to average well over a strikeout an inning–a pretty impressive mark. He’s a big guy with a big pitch. The name fits.

What probably brought the most success for Grimm this past season, though, was that opposing hitters just could not make good contact against him. His BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) was just .255. The league average is just under .300—we see that opposing hitters have a hard time getting good wood on Grimm’s pitches.

A name like “Deadwood” has a nice ring, and recognizes that even when hitters make contact against Grimm, the ball does not travel far. Grimm is deadly to the bats of the opposition. There has got to be something name-worthy in that.

Certainly the Cubs are enjoying this player they got in return for Matt Garza back in 2013. Manager Joe Maddon relied heavily on the big reliever through the stretch run spanning late July and August–and that’s when Grimm met the challenge by pitching scoreless innings and getting the ball into the hands of closer, Hector Rondon.

He was a valuable part of the Cubs bullpen… even if we didn’t notice all that much.