John Grabow

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John Grabow
John Grabow 2010.jpg
Grabow with the Chicago Cubs
Relief pitcher
Born: (1978-11-04) November 4, 1978 (age 38)
Arcadia, California
Batted: Left Threw: Left
MLB debut
September 14, 2003, for the Pittsburgh Pirates
Last MLB appearance
September 20, 2011, for the Chicago Cubs
MLB statistics
Win–loss record 24–19
Earned run average 4.31
Strikeouts 400

John William Grabow, nicknamed "Grabes"[1] (born November 4, 1978) is a retired Major League Baseball left-handed reliever. He played for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs.

Through 2009, he held opposing batters to a .218 batting average and a .293 slugging percentage when there were runners in scoring position.[2] He made 340 appearances between 2004–08, which ranks him fourth in the majors and first among left-handed relievers in the National League for that period.[1]

Through 2011, in nine years in the majors he played in 506 games and had a 24–19 record, using a fastball, slider, and change up.[3]

Early life[edit]

Grabow grew up in Arcadia, California, and was a Dodgers fan, playing first base. He was a pitcher at San Gabriel High School in California, and was named his league's most valuable player in his senior year in (1997).[3] He was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 3rd round of the 1997 amateur draft.[3]

Baseball career[edit]

Minor leagues[edit]

In 1998, Grabow was hit on the ear by a foul ball while sitting in the dugout and spent some time on the disabled list.[1]

In 1999 Grabow led the Hickory Crawdads (A) in victories, starts, and innings pitched, and ranked third in the South Atlantic League in strikeouts with 164, in 156 innings.[4]

Grabow matched the Altoona Curve record for career wins, with 24.[5] Until 2003, he had pitched only 10 times in relief as a pro.[6] That season Altoona manager Dale Sveum and pitching coach Jeff Andrews asked Grabow to make the switch, suggesting it might be a good career move.[6] "I didn't know if it was a step backwards", Grabow said.[6] But Grabow was then promoted to Class AAA Nashville in July, and pitched exclusively as a relief pitcher there before joining the Pirates for the final weeks of the year.[6]

Through 2003, he averaged 7.6 strikeouts per 9 innings in the minor leagues, striking out 9.5 batters per 9 innings at the AAA level.

In the summer of 2003 he made six appearances with Team USA in the Olympic qualifying team trials.[7][8]

Major leagues[edit]

Pittsburgh Pirates[edit]

Grabow was called up by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2003, after having spent six years playing in the minor leagues. It was the most memorable moment of his life.[9]

Grabow appeared in 68 games in his first year with the Pirates, a team record for the number of appearances by a rookie left-hander.[10] Used both in short stints and long ones, Grabow said: "That stuff where there are guys in certain roles, yeah, there are some guys who have roles set, but I don't think I'm one of them. I just pitch when they tell me to. Whether it's one or two innings, or to one batter, it doesn't matter to me."[6]

On the light side, for his rookie hazing he had to wear a Tweety Bird backpack during batting practice and carrying all the snacks to the bullpen, go through an airport wearing a cheerleader outfit that was two sizes too small, and serve drinks on the plane.[9][11]

In February 2005 Grabow signed a contract pursuant to which he would make $327,000 in the majors, but $240,000 if he pitched at Class AAA Indianapolis.[12] He was a workhorse in the Pittsburgh bullpen in 2005, appearing in 63 games in his second full major league season. He held opposing batters to a .186 batting average and a .186 slugging percentage when there were runners in scoring position.[13] He stranded a major-league best 89.7% of his inherited runners, allowing just 4 of 39 inherited runners to score.[14]

In 2006, he appeared in 72 games. He held opposing batters to a .217 batting average when there were runners in scoring position. Grabow stranded 82.5% of the runners he inherited, the best in the National League.[15]

In February 2007, Grabow and the Pirates avoided arbitration, and agreed to a 1-year contract for $832,500. Grabow was also in a position to make $10,000 to $70,000 in incentive bonuses if he finished 20–35 games, but was not able to cash in as he only finished 14 games. He was also in a position to make an additional $10,000 to $45,000 in incentive bonuses if he made 75–85 appearances, but again was not able to cash in as he made only 63 appearances.[16]

Grabow was 3–2 with the Pirates, with a 4.53 ERA. He had held batters to a .215 batting average and a .231 slugging percentage with runners in scoring position, while leading the team by only allowing 5.3% of batters he faced to get extra base hits.

Grabow initially planned to have minor surgery after the 2007 season to remove bone chips in his left elbow.[17] But after receiving a cortisone shot in August, he changed his mind. "I've been symptom-free for the past few weeks", Grabow said. "I want to see what my options are. I don't think I'll really need to have surgery. Maybe I can manage it, and pitch through it."[18] He had his left elbow examined by Los Angeles Angels orthopedist Lewis Yocum, who suggested that rest would be an effective alternative to arthroscopic surgery.[19][20] Grabow then decided against surgery, and instead followed a program of rest and rehabilitation,[21] extending his period of rest from three to eight weeks, and concentrating his workouts more on strengthening his legs and shoulders.[22]

Grabow earned $1.135 million in 2008. He also had the potential to earn an additional $75,000 based on appearances.[23]

In 2008 he had the third-lowest ERA of all NL left-handed relievers (2.84), and stranded all but 8 of his 33 inherited runners (76%).[24] Batters hit only .215 against him (and only .146 with runners in scoring position), and he struck out a team-best 19.3% of all batters he faced, while leading the team by only allowing 5.6% of batters he faced to get extra base hits. He also pitched in 74 games, four short of the record for left-handed pitchers, set by Scott Sauerbeck in 2002.[1]

Grabow edged Minnesota's Craig Breslow for the 2008 Barney Pelty Award for Jewish Pitcher of the Year.[25]

Grabow agreed to a one-year deal for $2.3 million, with an additional $75,000 possible in incentives, in early January.[26] Despite Grabow being eligible to become a free agent at the end of the season, the Pirates did not engage in contract talks beyond 2008.[27]

Grabow accepted an invitation to play for Team USA in 2009 in the second World Baseball Classic.[28] He was the first member of the Pirates to represent the US in the WBC. "It's just a thrill, a real honor", he said. "When I got the call, I couldn't believe it. Hopefully, I can help them win some games."[28] He tied for the WBC lead in games pitched (with six), and had a 2.08 ERA, helping Team USA reach the semi-finals.[29]

On July 20 Grabow became the all-time appearances leader at PNC Park with his 189th, and was tied for ninth all-time on the Pirates' appearance list (385) with Rip Sewell.

In July 2009 the New York Yankees, Minnesota Twins, Florida Marlins, and Los Angeles Dodgers had all expressed interest in trading for Grabow.[30][31] Asked about the possibility of the Pirates trading him, Grabow, failing to stifle a grin, responded "I'm untouchable, dude. No way they're trading me."[32] On July 30, Grabow was traded to the Chicago Cubs along with fellow left-handed pitcher Tom Gorzelanny for right-handed pitchers Kevin Hart and José Ascanio and minor league third baseman Josh Harrison.[33]

Chicago Cubs[edit]

Grabow began his Cubs career with 16 consecutive scoreless appearances (over 13.0 innings), and stranded his first 11 inherited runners.

He pitched 30 games for the Cubs, ending the season with a career-high 75 games pitched.[34]

On November 20, 2009, he signed a two-year extension with the Cubs worth $7.5 million.[35] General Manager Jim Hendry said: "It was really imperative we re-sign Grabow, because he's not only our kind of guy and very successful, but has some experience and some savvy to him and can pitch seventh, eighth, ninth, matchups, righties, lefties. It doesn't matter."[36] Grabow said he had no preference as to how he was used: "If it's the sixth inning or if it's the ninth inning, it doesn't matter. Your job is to go in there and get guys out."[37]

Los Angeles Dodgers[edit]

He signed a minor league contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers on December 19, 2011. He opted out of his contract on March 26, 2012 and became a free agent.

Pitching style[edit]

Grabow had a 94 mph fastball that runs inside on left-handed hitters, a sharp, hard, late-breaking slider, "one of the best changeups in the game", "the bottom falling out of it", which confounds right-handers,[17][38][39] and was equally adept at getting both right and left-handed batters out.


Grabow is Jewish, and his mother is Jewish.[40][41][42]

There were 13 Jewish players in the majors in 2008, including Kevin Youkilis, Ryan Braun, Jason Marquis, and Ian Kinsler.[43] Grabow was one of three Jewish ballplayers on the Team USA 2009 World Baseball Classic team, joining Braun and Youkilis.[44] His 448 career games pitched through 2010 placed him 3rd on the all-time list for Jewish major league pitchers, three games behind Ken Holtzman.[45]

Grabow married Karey Ann Mifsud of Erie, Pennsylvania in November 2008.[46][47] They divorced in 2013.[48]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Five Questions: Pitcher John Grabow". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. March 1, 2009. Archived from the original on August 17, 2009. Retrieved May 3, 2009. 
  2. ^ "John Grabow 2003 Pitching Splits". Baseball Reference. Retrieved May 3, 2009. 
  3. ^ a b c "Do You Know Who This Guy Is?". Mid Valley News. August 7, 2013. Retrieved October 11, 2013. 
  4. ^ "John Grabow: Biography and Career Highlights". September 14, 2003. Retrieved May 3, 2009. 
  5. ^ "Curve Bounce Baysox". Tribune Democrat. Retrieved May 21, 2010. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Rutter, Joe (May 4, 2004). "Lefties bolster Bucs' bullpen". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Retrieved July 19, 2009. 
  7. ^ "USA Baseball Adds John Grabow to Roster", Baseball America, September 30, 2003, accessed July 23, 2009 Archived October 6, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ Jenifer Langosch / (March 25, 2009). "Grabow welcomed back from Classic | News". Retrieved May 21, 2010. 
  9. ^ a b Eagle, Ed (May 25, 2006). "Batting Around with John Grabow: Questions and answers with Bucs lefty middle reliever". Retrieved July 18, 2009. 
  10. ^ "John Grabow: Biography and Career Highlights". September 14, 2003. Retrieved May 3, 2009. 
  11. ^ Rutter, Joe (September 27, 2003). "Notebook: Stairs makes rookies look foolish". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Retrieved May 21, 2010. 
  12. ^ Rutter, Joe (February 27, 2005). "Rutter, John, Notebook: Perez cleared to return". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Retrieved May 21, 2010. 
  13. ^ "John Grabow 2005 Pitching Splits". Baseball Reference. Retrieved May 3, 2009. 
  14. ^ "John Grabow: Biography and Career Highlights". September 14, 2003. Retrieved May 3, 2009. 
  15. ^ Eagle, Ed (December 21, 2006). "Bucs' rotation will be key in '07". Retrieved May 3, 2009. 
  16. ^, 2/2/07 Archived February 4, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  17. ^ a b Kovacevic, Dejan (August 21, 2007). "Pirates Notebook: Grabow planning offseason surgery". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved May 3, 2009. 
  18. ^ "Fantasy Baseball Breaking News". Rotoworld. Retrieved May 3, 2009. 
  19. ^ "MLB Insiders – Pittsburgh Pirates". October 8, 2007. Retrieved May 3, 200.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  20. ^ Kovacevic, Dejan (November 26, 2007). "Grabow, other Pirates healing nicely". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved May 21, 2010. 
  21. ^ "MLB Insiders—Pittsburgh Pirates". January 1, 2008. Retrieved May 3, 2009. 
  22. ^ Todd Krise (September 19, 2008). "Grabow gaining experience, wisdom: Reliever reaping the rewards of intense preparation". Retrieved May 21, 2010. 
  23. ^ Langosch, Jenifer. "Notes: Nady, Grabow avoid arbitration". Retrieved May 3, 2009. 
  24. ^ Kovacevic, Dejan (September 30, 2008). "Pirates 2008 players' report card, salary status". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved May 3, 2009. 
  25. ^ "Youkilis, Grabow, Kapler named best Jewish Major Leaguers". New Jersey Jewish News. January 1, 2009. Retrieved May 3, 2009. 
  26. ^ Langosch, Jenifer (January 20, 2009). "Bucs avoid arbitration with four players". Retrieved May 3, 2009. 
  27. ^ Langosch, Jenifer (March 25, 2009). "Grabow welcomed back from Classic". Retrieved May 3, 2009. 
  28. ^ a b Kovacevic, Dejan (March 3, 2009). "Grabow gets call from U.S. for Classic". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved May 3, 2009. 
  29. ^ "World Baseball Classic: Statistics". Retrieved May 3, 2009. 
  30. ^ "Russo, Frank, Rumor Mill: Wang, Halladay, Wells, Cliff Lee, and Others". NY Baseball Digest. July 16, 2009. Retrieved May 21, 2010. 
  31. ^ Jesse Sanchez. "Roundup: Deals could be on Bucs' horizon". Retrieved May 21, 2010. 
  32. ^ Kovacevic, Dejan (July 5, 2009). "On the Pirates: No Avoiding the Middlemen". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved May 21, 2010. 
  33. ^ Kovacevic, Dejan (July 30, 2009). "Grabow, Gorzelanny traded to Cubs". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved May 21, 2010. 
  34. ^ ""Chicago Cubs, Left-Handed Pitcher John Grabow Agree to Terms on Two-Year Contract", Press Release, November 23, 2009, accessed December 14, 2009". Retrieved May 21, 2010. 
  35. ^ "Cubs agree with Grabow". CNN. November 20, 2009. Retrieved May 6, 2010. [dead link]
  36. ^ Miles, Bruce, "Williams gets busy at winter meetings", Chicago Daily Herald, December 9, 2009, accessed December 14, 2009 Archived March 20, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  37. ^ Gano, Rick, "Grabow gets $7.5 million, 2-year deal from Cubs", Associated Press, November 20, 2009, accessed December 14, 2009[permanent dead link]
  38. ^ "Pirates' Grabow learns about Erie winters". January 29, 2009. Retrieved May 3, 2009. 
  39. ^ Rutter, Joe (July 26, 2006). "Grabow bright spot in bullpen". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Retrieved May 21, 2010. 
  40. ^ Rosen, Harvey (March 5, 2008). "Warming up for the Jewish boys of summer". The Jewish Ledger. Retrieved May 21, 2010. 
  41. ^ Chottiner, Lee, "Pittsburgh's Jewish Pirates: MOTs playing ball in ’Burgh for 127 years"[permanent dead link], The Jewish Chronicle, accessed 7/19/09
  42. ^ "Internet Archive Wayback Machine". December 6, 2004. Archived from the original on December 6, 2004. Retrieved August 24, 2011. 
  43. ^ "Kovacevic, Dejan, "On the Pirates: Youth? Not the problem"". The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. May 10, 2009. Retrieved May 21, 2010. 
  44. ^ "Editorial: Anti-semitism in Venezuela; There is No Joy in Caracas". St. Louis Jewish Light. March 19, 2009. Retrieved March 19, 2009. 
  45. ^ "Career Pitching Leaders". Retrieved February 3, 2011. 
  46. ^ "Karey Ann Mifsud and John William Grabow". CyberInk LP and the Erie Times-News. February 3, 2008. Retrieved June 27, 2013.  External link in |publisher= (help)
  47. ^ "MARRIAGE". JRL Sports. Retrieved June 27, 2013. 
  48. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on April 23, 2016. Retrieved 2014-06-28. 

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