Chicago Cubs: Justin Grimm’s struggles continue this season

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /

After giving up two more runs on Thursday, Chicago Cubs’ relief pitcher Justin Grimm shows no signs of progress.

In two short years, Justin Grimm has gone from a dominant relief pitcher to one who struggles to record outs. After yielding two runs in the Chicago Cubs’ 13-10 loss to the Reds on Thursday, Grimm’s ERA for the season sits at 5.40. That is a fry cry from the sub-2.00 ERA the right-hander posted in 2015.

Grimm’s first full season with the Cubs came in 2014, one year after being acquired from the Rangers. In 73 relief appearances for Chicago, Grimm was the definition of an average pitcher, posting an ERA+ of 100. Along with that, Grimm notched a 3.78 ERA and struck out 70 batters in 69 innings pitched.

Following his heavy workload in 2014, the Cubs placed Grimm on the DL before he made his first appearance of 2015. For that reason, Grimm logged just 49 2/3 innings pitched in 2015, appearing in 62 games.

Despite his injury and reduced usage, Grimm performed well in 2015. He went 3-5 with a 1.99 ERA and 67 strikeouts. In addition to that, Grimm set a career-high with 12.1 strikeouts per nine innings.

All downhill from here

Thus far, the 2015 campaign has proven to be Grimm’s best season in the majors. In the following year, 2016, Grimm struggled. In 68 games, he posted a 4.10 ERA. Despite his inflated ERA, there were some positives for Grimm.

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The 27-year-old struck out 65 batters and walked 23 leading to a 2.83 strikeout-to-walk ratio. That mark bested the 2.58 strikeout-to-walk ratio set one year earlier. Along with that, Grimm averaged 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings and dropped his walks per nine innings from 4.7 in 2015 to 3.9 in 2016.

While the 2016 version of Grimm came with some positives, the 2017 version does not. Grimm started out the season on the wrong foot by posting a 6.52 ERA in April. The now 28-year-old backed that up by logging an ERA north of 6.00 in May.

Following two rough months, Grimm finally found a groove in June. He made 13 appearances and allowed just one earned run, striking out 16 in 12 1/3 innings pitched.

Grimm’s success was short-lived as the right-hander posted a 7.94 ERA in July and an 8.10 ERA thus far in August.

Diving deeper

Looking more in depth into Grimm’s numbers, some troubling trends jump out. According to Fangraphs, Grimm is allowing 3.7 percent more fly balls this season compared to last. In addition to that, Grimm has allowed 1.5 percent less soft contact and seven percent more hard contact compared to last year. What that tells us is that Grimm is yielding more hard-hit fly balls this season compared to last year’s numbers and his career numbers.

Consequentially, Grimm has allowed 44 fly balls this season (11 for home runs). To put that into perspective, Grimm allowed 48 fly balls all of last season (five for home runs).

Grimm lands on the DL

After Grimm’s rocky performance on Thursday in which he yielded two runs and walked two batters, the Cubs placed Grimm on the disabled list with an infected finger.

The length of his stay undetermined as of yet, Grimm faces an uphill battle. At this point, the leash has shortened. Right now, it would not be surprising if Grimm does not have a job when he returns from the DL. With the addition of Justin Wilson at the trade deadline and the call-ups of Felix Pena and Rob Zastryzny, the Cubs have plenty capable bullpen options.

Justin Grimm has shown the ability to pitch very well. Just look at his body of work in the month June when he posted a sub-1.00 ERA. No one disputes the talent. But consistency lacks for Grimm – and it’s the biggest piece to the puzzle.

For that reason, it may be time for the Cubs to let Grimm go. On the other hand, he could be on the verge of a great stretch. At this point, who knows?

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Only time will tell what Grimm’s future with the Cubs will hold, but his recent performances are not helping his case.