So, I'm sitting here and I'm frustrated. I'm trying to reconcile my brain between the half of it that wants to freak out about last night and Kevin Gregg and Buck Showalter's commerical, and the other half that wants to say that it's just one game, these things happen to every single team every single year, and anyway second-guessing the manager is lame. I can't do it. I can't reconcile my brain. This Kevin Gregg thing is the worst, but at the same time I know that if Jorge Posada takes strike one, we're probably not thinking at all about anything but taxes or bike lanes or which is your favorite character on Parks and Recreation.
Still, it keeps playing over and over again in my head: "I know the save rule and, quite frankly, it doesn't hold much weight with me". Look, if you believe that Buck Showalter is going to use his bullpen in any way that isn't the 2011 standard, you're kidding yourself. Kevin Gregg is the closer, and he's going to get the save opportunities as they present themselves regardless of whether or not he is the best pitcher for that situation.
I can live with that as an abstract concept, because it's 2011 and everybody has a closer that they use in that exact same way. Which is stupid, anyway, but that's neither here nor there...although I will ask as an open question, is there any other position in baseball that is ruled so firmly by as arbitrary a concept as the "save situation"? Saves are supposed to measure a reliever's ability, but are instead used to determine when a reliever is used. It's all backwards.
But let's talk about Kevin Gregg, who the Orioles spent a lot of money on this past winter and who has been handed the closer position because....wait, why was Kevin Gregg handed the closer position? What did he do to deserve the ball in the ninth? Here's a list of reasons why Kevin Gregg was paid a lot of money to be the Orioles' closer:
1) Kevin Gregg led the American League East in saves in 2010, tied with Jonathon Papelbon.
2) He is a "proven closer" who has as many saves over the past three seasons as the great Heath Bell.
And now some interesting facts about why Kevin Gregg does not deserve to be the closer:
1) Over the past three seasons, Kevin Gregg has the most blown saves in baseball.
2) In that timeframe only two pitchers with at least 50 saves have worse ERAs: Fernando Rodney and Brad Lidge. Both of those pitchers have better save conversation rates than Gregg
3) Of the five relievers on the Orioles staff who could conceivably be considered for the closer position (since we simply must have a closer) - Gregg, Mike Gonzalez, Jeremy Accardo, Koji Uehara, and Jim Johnson - guess who has the worst career ERA? It's Kevin Gregg.
4) Of those relievers, who has the highest FIP? Gregg.
5) Gregg's WHIP is actually not the worst of the group, as Accardo and John both edge him out (1.35 and 1.37, respectively, versus 1.33).
So you can't make the argument that Kevin Gregg is the best reliever on this pitching staff. And you certainly can make the argument that he is the worst late-game option on this staff, outside of the very idea of having a "closer" (which is, again, a stupid idea that is horrible). And I honestly believe it's only a matter of time before Gregg is replaced as closer by someone (hopefully) better at pitching and not blowing leads than he is.
In the meantime, this slavish devotion to "saves" on the part of the Orioles as an entire organization will have them keep trotting a lesser reliever out there in the ninth, and a lot of the time that's going to put them in hot water, just like it did last night. And it will probably result in the Orioles spending another boatload of cash on a closer next winter, for the third straight year. Let's just hope that sooner rather than later the O's realize that the reason their hand hurts so much is that the "saves" stove is really, really hot.