Since accumulating 11 blown saves in their first 45 games, the Pirates' bullpen has run off 11 saves in a row without blowing one.
In the last 30 days, Pirates' relievers have collected 29 holds (most in MLB), 12 saves (second most), in 92.2 innings of work (third most), while blowing only two saves (tied for 10th least).
"It never left," Grilli said of the Shark Tank mentality. "In this game, the pendulum swings sometimes."
He said that focusing on a small number of games, especially when it's the first month of the season, is never a good indication of how the season is going to turn out.
"It takes a minute to get momentum."
Moreover, Grilli observed that small sample sizes don't capture the "human element" that may affect things in the short run.
"There is so much analytics in the game. How about the human element?" Grilli said. "You want to break down what's going on at home? You know, maybe his kids are sick, that's why he's tired. He's coming here, he still has to pitch. There's a lot to it."
It is particularly unfair to judge a bullpen too early, he said, because relievers have such brief and isolated appearances.
"I like to break it down into games within games," Grilli said. "When I was a middle reliever people would say, 'Oh, you had a bad game,' and I would say, 'How about judging me on nine innings?' Because if ERA is mathematically calculated based on nine innings, how did I do in those nine innings?"
Another consideration when evaluating relievers is the situations they face.
"Am I being thrown into successful situations? Or, am I being thrown into unsuccessful situations?"
Grilli said that he understands that with social media and advances in baseball analytics, everyone wants to be the first to point out a new trend and use a new statistic.
"I understand that everyone is looking for the new thing, there's stats that I don't even know of, and I've been playing the game for a long time," he explained. "When I collected baseball cards, [the stats are] all I cared about.
"The best thing I heard came from Brad Hawpe. People look at batting average, they look at the scoreboard when they step into the box, the stat-rats," Grilli continued. "Now they shouldn't be, because your average is going to go up and down. But what doesn't change? Your strikeouts, your singles, your doubles, your RBIs, the things that matter, the things you're trying to do. You're batting average will change, but it is the other things that matter."
We finished by talking about how luck affects relievers, in particular.
"The worst game I ever had, I gave up four runs, but nothing got outside of the infield dirt, when I was with Colorado against LA. [On the other hand] if I give up three lasers and put up a zero, hey, nobody says anything."