Yesterday morning it was announced that the Astros had signed Luke Gregerson to a 3 year, $18.5 million contract. Incentives that would raise the contract to $21 million for "finishing" games were included as well.
Gregerson is a 30 year old 6'3", 200 lb relief pitcher who was drafted in the 28th round by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2006. He has been a reliever his whole career making stops with the Padres, Athletics, and now the Astros. He mainly throws a slider and a sinker mixing in the occasional change-up.
His slider sits around 82 mph, his sinker coming in around 89 mph, and his change-up at around 72 mph. He also throws three variations of the slider, as evidenced by this excellent Fangraphs article.
Since coming up with the Padres in 2009, Gregerson has never made less than 60 appearances, averaging 74 over the past three seasons. He is mainly a ground ball pitcher with a career 48.5% GB rate compared to his 33.1% FB rate. Last year for the Oakland A's he pitched to a 2.12 ERA with a 3.29 xFIP.
He struck out batters at a rate of 7.34 K/9 and allowed an excellent 1.87 BB/9 in 2014. Gregerson has been a very good reliever throughout his career, averaging a career 2.75 ERA, with a 2.99 FIP, and a .325 xFIP. One reason that Gregerson has been able to maintain an ERA lower than his FIP is his ability to induce weak contact, as evidenced by his career .267 BABIP.
Gregerson had some pretty large home & away splits when pitching at PetCo Park. They evened out slightly last year when pitching for Oakland. Minute Maid is more hitter friendly than either of them, so it remains to be seen how he will react to pitching most of his games in the Juicebox.
I do not expect Gregerson to be immediately slotted in as the closer, contrary to what some major media outlets and the twitterverse think.
I imagine Qualls will maintain his role as closer with Neshek & Gregerson as options 1A and 1B in high leverage situations late in games. Now that doesn't mean he couldn't take over as the official closer later on in the season, but his higher "meltdown" rate in high leverage situations makes me believe the Astros' front office is not inclined to slot him in as the closer.
If Gregerson can come in and exactly replicate his season last year, the Astros will have taken a big step towards a .500 record.