Get To Know ‘Em: Luke Gregerson

gregerson

(Photo Courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org)
Luke Gregerson joins a strong group of men coming out of the bullpen in Oakland

by Jim Turvey

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In an attempt to get to know all the new A’s being brought in this offseason, Three Bridge Sports is going to be taking a look at each of the new guys in (statistical heavy) introductions. On Monday we looked at Scott Kazmir, today we’ll look at the product of Seth Smith being shipped out of town, Luke Gregerson.

Stats Chart

ERA WHIP ERA+ SO/9 SO/BB Saves + Holds Blown Saves IS%
2013 season 2.71 1.010 126 8.7 3.56 29 5 26
Second half 2013 2.39 0.987 XXX 9.6 2.80 14 1 XXX
2014 Steamer projection 3.62 1.28 XXX 7.04 2.40 XXX XXX XXX
Career 2.88 1.092 126 9.1 3.29 148 24 21

 

Let’s begin with the 2013 season. Gregerson’s numbers from last year fit right in line with his career totals, and at the age of 29, with five years of consistent results, Gregerson seems to be a sure bet at this point. The five blown saves out of 34 opportunities (85.3%) are actually even more impressive given that set up men often face more challenging game environments than closers. The Padres often used Gregerson in their closest parts of the game, whereas, the closer’s role has become so defined (ninth inning, with a lead of either one, two or three runs) that they often are not used in the points of the game with the most leverage.

Gregerson is not the most overpowering pitcher in the league, but his strikeout totals are respectable, and he has very good control to go with those solid strikeout totals. The final column (IS%) represents the percentage of inherited runners that he allowed to score. That means when he was brought into the game in the middle of an inning with men on base they scored just a hair over a quarter of the time. This is only just better than the National Average from last year (27%), and is a little bit worse than his career totals. However, with relief pitchers, small sample size is always a major factor. Given the fact that the rest of Gregerson’s numbers are on par with his career totals, he is most likely due for a return to form, allowing far fewer inherited runners to score than the rest of the league.

Similar to Scott Kazmir, Luke Gregerson had a strong second half of 2013. He improved in every category in the above chart except SO/BB, as he had a more walks in the second half. However, if we are going to apply a small sample size alert when it is beneficial to Gregerson (in his possible return to form in allowing inherited runners to score), we must also give that same warning about small sample sizes here, as a half season of work for a relief pitcher is the equivalent of four good starts for a starting pitcher.

Surprisingly, for the numbers Steamer does project, they don’t like Gregerson as much as would be expected. The Steamer projections see Luke tallying a career high in ERA, while posting some of his worst overall numbers to date. I’m guessing that Steamer is making this projection based on the fact that Gregerson is leaving the extremely pitcher-friendly environment of Petco Park in San Diego. However, given the pitcher-friendly environment of O.co Coliseum, there must be some other sort of regression involved. Who am I to argue with the experts, but I think most A’s fans are expecting a little bit better.

Background Story

Gregerson is from Park Ridge, Illinois, and was drafted in the 26th round of the 2006 MLB draft. He was the Cardinals 29th ranked prospect in 2008 before being traded to San Diego in part of a deal that brought the Cardinals Khalil Greene (I think it’s fair to say the Padres cashed in at the right time on that deal).

His claim to fame for a while was that in 2010, he set the MLB record for most holds in a single season with 40. This record was broken in 2013, and given that the holds statistic has only been around since 1986, and relievers are becoming more and more specialized, this is a record likely to be broken several more times.

His arrival in Oakland spells the end of Seth Smith’s days in Oakland. In his two years with Oakland, Seth Smith was somewhat of a disappointment, netting the A’s only 2.2 WAR, and hitting just .246 with the club. He has now seen his home park go from Coors Field (before the A’s) to Petco Park, which is the batting equivalent of going from dating Katy Perry to Kirstie Alley.

What does he throw?

Gregerson relies nearly exclusively on his slider, throwing the pitch 55.5 percent of the time in 2013. He did so with good reason. In 2013, opposing hitters were only able to hit .195 of the pitch. This is no fluke either, in fact, if it is at all a fluke that number is due to regress. For his career, Gregerson has allowed opposing hitters to only hit .176 off the pitch, an incredible number given the regularity with which he throws it. His slider only comes in at 81.7 mph, but it is the movement on the pitch, and Gregerson’s control of the pitch that makes it so devastating.

There is nothing spectacular about Gregerson’s wind up or delivery, and given the amount with which Gregerson throws his slider, one would think that batters would begin to clue in on it, but his success clearly states otherwise. The only partial weakness of Gregerson is, as a slider specialist, he does suffer the usual splits against left-handed batters. He is far stronger against right-handed batters, but he is far from just a righty specialist. Also, given the strength of the A’s bullpen, this should not be an issue.

Joining a loaded pen

As just mentioned, Gregerson will be joining one of, if not the, strongest bullpen in baseball. This offseason, the A’s have been particularly gung-ho about solidifying the end of games, and have done a good job in doing so. By bringing in Jim Johnson (soon to be profiled), and Gregerson, to join the already strong relief corps of Sean Doolittle, Ryan Cook, Pat Neshek, Jesse Chavez, Josh Lindblom and Dan Otero they have put a point of emphasis on the bullpen. The A’s will hope that their new ace, strong young rotation, loaded bullpen, and usual set of undervalued hitters can be enough to top a suddenly Group-of-Death-esque AL West.

Make room in the parking lot

Luke Gregerson’s passion outside of baseball is cars, and boy does he have a nice one. A’s fans will want to stick around after the game to see Gregerson drive out in his 1967 Chevy Camaro Super Sport. Although, if he takes to his tradition that he had in San Diego, A’s fans may see him arriving by a far more humble means of transportation – his longboard. Not sure he’ll be able to do that every day in Oakland like he did in San Diego.

An older, but still useful profile

“The Hardball Times” is one of the best sources for baseball information, and their writers truly know their stuff. If you have some spare time, and are interested in learning more about Gregerson, check out the above link, as Myron Logan takes a look at Gregerson’s numbers from a few years back.

 

Come back next week to check out even more profiles of the new A’s.

Author: Jim Turvey

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