Rays Add Bullpen Depth, Claim LHP Gaub

By Robbie Knopf

Today the Rays have added to their bullpen depth following the Kyle Farnsworth injury, claiming lefty reliever John Gaub from the Chicago Cubs.

Gaub, who turns 27 in April, had a solid season in 2011 at Triple-A for the Cubs, going 4-4 with a 3.42 ERA and 7 saves in 50 relief appearances, and posting a 6.75 ERA in 4 big league appearances for the Cubs. Gaub is a player who strikes a lot of guys out and doesn’t allow many home runs, but he struggles with control. For his career, in 170 relief appearances and a lone start, Gaub has a 12.6 K/9, a 5.8 BB/9, and a 0.6 HR/9, good for a 3.16 FIP, but in 2011 he posted a 12.2 K/9, a 6.5 BB/9, and a 1.0 HR/9. Gaub was actually just about equally as effective against both lefties and righties according to Minor League Central, allowing a .626 OPS versus lefties compared to .650 versus righties (league OPS .806), but his control raises big red flags. But he’s a lefty and he was definitely worth a flier.

We actually have Pitch F/X data on Gaub from his four games with the Cubs in 2011, so let’s see what his stuff looks like.

(For a general explanation of the topic of Pitch F/X and specifically how to read this type of graph, please click here.)

Looking at the graph, we see that Gaub is primarily fastball, slider, although he does mix in a rare curve and change. Gaub’s fastball features nice run, especially late, away from lefty batters with average sink. It’s a big swing-and-miss pitch because of it’s movement, but because it lacks great sink, it’s a neutral groundball-flyball pitch, and its movement has hindered Gaub from throwing it consistently for a strike. Gaub’s slider has nice late downward movement and he actually controls quite a bit better than his fastball from the same arm slot. It generates whiffs and groundballs as long as he can locate it down in the zone, which he does relatively well. Gaub’s slider is the reason that he can handle lefties and righties equally well because it basically goes straight zone and is tough for any batter to hit when he hits his spots with it. Gaub’s change and curve show promise, but every single time he threw them in this sample of pitches, he missed the strike zone.

Gaub is an interesting player in that he throws a plus slider and good fastball, but he absolutely has to improve his control. If the Rays can somehow accomplish that, he could be an effective big league reliever. The Rays are getting Gaub for nothing, and we’ll see if he can amount to anything for them. He’s another intriguing acquisition by Andrew Friedman, and if the Rays can help him improve his control, he’ll make Friedman look like a genius yet again.