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  1. Great work Jeff.

    This whole extra strikes per 1000 pitches is fascinating.

    Comment by Chris — August 23, 2012 @ 1:08 pm

  2. I think Greinke is just a guy that will never really match what his peripherals would suggest. He is really the only guy I’ve watched that will go like 6 IP 5ER 7k 0bb all the time. It just doesn’t make sense.

    Comment by Justin — August 23, 2012 @ 1:12 pm

  3. Interesting part about the Brewers catchers being able to get “extra strikes”. Any correlation between this and the league leading K/9 by Brewers pitchers?

    Comment by Davidson34 — August 23, 2012 @ 1:13 pm

  4. Hmmm. I didn’t know about the extra strikes phenomenon either. Very illuminating.

    On a side note, that bit about whether or not you are an opportunist, and also whether or not you are nothing, reminded me of a Monty Python sketch, to which my username links.

    Comment by Well-Beered Englishman — August 23, 2012 @ 1:14 pm

  5. I have to imagine that they are not completely independent of one another.

    Comment by Jeff Sullivan — August 23, 2012 @ 1:22 pm

  6. I really wonder if the whole social anxiety disorder is playing into this as well. I have never been to Kansas City or Mikwaukee but LA is a whole lot different than Seattle (where I grew up). It’s pretty insane down there and I’m from a large city. I could imagine it being a lot worse than he imagined and it affecting him.

    Comment by Average_Casey — August 23, 2012 @ 1:23 pm

  7. ” just a guy that…” is not an explanation, though. Long ago, scientists didn’t quit and say, “I think the sun just rises because that’s what it does.” Things like FIP-ERA discrepancies have become the holy grail of sabermetrics.

    Greinke’s peripherals haven’t matched his results and this article is taking another step toward answering why. The answer isn’t likely to be just one thing either– which seems to be hard for fans to process.

    Comment by JDanger — August 23, 2012 @ 1:26 pm

  8. My guess is that Baseball! is a more accurate cause, but I want this to be true because anything involving the quality of pitch framing is awesome.

    Comment by Neil — August 23, 2012 @ 1:28 pm

  9. Interesting point about the Brewers catchers. I think that is part of the difference. I also think he is nibbling with his fastball and overthrowing his breaking balls since returning to the AL. He knows that he is facing good AL lineups and probably trying to hard to impress his new team.

    Good analysis of this by Nicholas Zettel of Disciples of Uecker.

    Comment by Cecil Cooper's Love Child — August 23, 2012 @ 1:34 pm

  10. We have no idea what triggers Greinke’s SAD and depression or how it manifests. Your wondering does nothing to further any positive discussions, just more worthless speculating.

    Comment by Urban Shocker — August 23, 2012 @ 1:44 pm

  11. I was hoping someone would look at this. The sample with Ianetta is way too small for anything too conclusive, but as someone who follows Greinke closely – I noticed in his first couple starts that Ianetta (in comparison to Lucroy or even Maldonado) was EXTREMELY poor at receiving pitches in a fluid manner. I counted at least 5 or 6 pitches during the Oakland start that weren’t even borderline strikes – Pitch F/X had these pitches as clearly within the strike zone – but Ianetta simply blew them due to wonky glove movement and or distracting motions.

    The “extra strike” thing is noteworthy and is a nice beginning to where to find Lucroy/Maldonado’s true value, but I wonder if the difference in Brewers and Angels catchers would be more-pronounced with someone like Greinke, who relies on extreme control of the corners for his success. His approach of pounding the edge with his fastball (to get ahead in the count) and spiking the slider for the K won’t be successful if he isn’t getting ahead in the count.

    Comment by foamtopper — August 23, 2012 @ 1:46 pm

  12. “never really match his peripherals”

    This isn’t true at all (see: 2007, 2008, 2009)

    Comment by Urban Shocker — August 23, 2012 @ 1:48 pm

  13. Where to start?

    Last year, he was 11-0 at home with a 3.13 and 5-6 with a 4.70 on the road. This year, he was 4-0 with a 2.56 at Mil and 5-3 on the road with maybe a 4.59 on the road.

    His ERA in th playoffs is 6.48.

    There is some slight remote chance he has an anxiety disorder which prevents him from pitching well if he is not comfortable. That doesn’t make him a bad person, but it seems like, as the 800 ound elephant gets bigger and bigger, the less people want to talk about it.

    Comment by Joebrady — August 23, 2012 @ 1:56 pm

  14. Moot point – he is a completely different pitcher now. GB rate is way up, Ks are up, walks are down…

    Comment by Justin — August 23, 2012 @ 1:57 pm

  15. 2011 post All-Star Road-ERA was 2.93

    Comment by foamtopper — August 23, 2012 @ 2:02 pm

  16. The extra strikes analysis is great, but has nothing to do with Greinke. The problem with Greinke is the nerd masturbatory infatuation with him. To wit, “Zack Greinke’s numbers as a Brewer, obviously, were outstanding. He was one of the most effective pitchers in the National League.”

    Um, no His fictional numbers were outstanding and suggested he should be oustanding, but in reality he had a 3.44 ERA. Not outstanding. Not one of the most effective pitchers, more like the 15th best pitcher in the NL.

    Just because other model stats suggest based on expectations that he should be better than he is, fact is he’s not. He had one great year 3 years ago. Other than that he’s a career 3.80 ERA pitcher. Yawn. And yet there’s about 8 stories here on him per week, while other multiple Cy Young winners with compelling stories (Halladay? Lincecum?) are virtually ignored.

    Greinke will never be as good as he “should” because his mental issues hurt him, for example when runners reach base and in other areas not explained by the stats. It’s not bad luck, it’s what he is. Accept it. Nothing to see here, move along.

    Comment by Fatbot — August 23, 2012 @ 2:06 pm

  17. Yes we do, because he has said. He is bothered by one-on-one situations and speaking to groups. He has never said that he doesn’t like big cities – he’s from one, after all – although he once speculated that he might find New York problematic, and followed that by saying “but I think a lot of people do,” which is absolutely true. He has said that he isn’t bothered at all by the knowledge that he is the center of attention when he is on the mound.

    Comment by ecp — August 23, 2012 @ 2:14 pm

  18. Find me one game in the past 3 years where he’s had 7+ strikeouts, 0 walks, and 5+ runs. Or even 7+ Ks and 1 walk. Proclaiming that as the norm when it’s never even happened once is absurd.

    Comment by placidity — August 23, 2012 @ 2:15 pm

  19. Woo hoo ERA

    Comment by foamtopper — August 23, 2012 @ 2:16 pm

  20. If only Jeff Mathis were still there. I mean, that CERA!

    Comment by Dusty — August 23, 2012 @ 2:17 pm

  21. I don’t have SAD and I’m not otherwise qualified to respond to this, but I will anyway:

    From what I understand, social anxiety disorder makes you seize up and become intensely fearful or physically ill at the prospect of social interaction. It’s not the kind of thing that would make a person perform somewhat less well at some task because there are more people in the general area – it’s not Worse At Baseball Because You Are In a Large City Disorder. If his SAD was triggered, and the manifestation would not be walking 1.7 more batters per 9 innings, that’s for sure. There’d be no mistaking it, he probably wouldn’t be able to even get on the mound. Besides, he takes medication for it.

    Comment by geefee — August 23, 2012 @ 2:22 pm

  22. Someone should do an analysis of ‘reputation strikes’ where umpires allow guys like Halladay and Lee (most years) to expand the strikezone.

    In fact, some kind of heat map/distribution comparison of the strikes called for a respected veteran and high-profile rookie (especially using the same umpire) would be amazing.

    Comment by Cus — August 23, 2012 @ 2:34 pm

  23. Not that exact line but games where he allowed a ton of runs with great k/bb numbers

    7/3/11 @ Min 6IP 5ER 9k 2BB
    5/15/11 @ PIT 5IP 5 ER 5k 1BB
    5/20/11 @ Col 6Ip 4 ER 9k/0bb
    6/16/11 @ Chi 5.1IP 6 ER 10k 2bb

    Comment by Justin — August 23, 2012 @ 2:34 pm

  24. This is REAL baseball where runs matter…

    Comment by YAHOOOOO — August 23, 2012 @ 2:36 pm

  25. It will be funny when someone pays this enigma $100 million dollars.

    Comment by Move _____ get out the way — August 23, 2012 @ 2:39 pm

  26. Yeah, nobody said anything about my baby boy all year! Pay attention to my Timmy!

    Comment by Momma Lincecum — August 23, 2012 @ 2:42 pm

  27. since when are strikeouts, walks, and home runs given up fictional?

    Comment by jim — August 23, 2012 @ 2:51 pm

  28. It’s actually not too much of a stretch to say Yuni Betancourt and Prince Fielder are “fictional” defenders.

    Comment by foamtopper — August 23, 2012 @ 2:53 pm

  29. In case you don’t notice, people are ignoring you because you are clearly ignorant and possibly a complete idiot.

    Comment by Am I even serious? — August 23, 2012 @ 3:44 pm

  30. Oh. OH! I get what you’re doing there. I didn’t realize a 29 year old pitcher who has shown the ability to go well over 200 innings with an above average ERA (even if you completely discount FIP) and is a groundball machine with infielders consisting of Yuniesky Betancourt, Prince Fielder, Casey McGehee, Aramis Ramirez, and Rickie Weeks doesn’t have $100 million value. But you’re right. 5 starts with a bad ERA AND a solid infield defense prove he’s crazy. It’s obvious to everyone his anxiety disorder affects him too much. After all, anxiety disorder ALWAYS affects performance. In fact, Joey Votto would actually have a .400/.500/.700 line if he didn’t have social anxiety disorder.

    Comment by Am I even serious? — August 23, 2012 @ 3:52 pm

  31. Sure, there are a couple. Just wanted to point out that there’s a big difference between giving up 5+ runs with a 7K/BB rate “all the time” and giving up 5+ runs with a 4.5K/BB rate 8% of the time.

    Comment by placidity — August 23, 2012 @ 4:04 pm

  32. Crowds play an important role in that though. More people = greater chance of social interaction which is bad for a SAD sufferer. While it is not necessarily true that it is the case, it will at least be perceived that way. Increasingly large crowds are generally a bad thing for the perception of the SAD person for that reason.

    Comment by Colin — August 23, 2012 @ 4:05 pm

  33. “I don’t have SAD and I’m not otherwise qualified to respond to this, but I will anyway”

    then don’t. sports are sports so talking unknowingly is one thing, but speculating on mental health disorders without knowing anything is another.

    Comment by robby — August 23, 2012 @ 4:17 pm

  34. Thank you

    Comment by Urban Shocker — August 23, 2012 @ 4:23 pm

  35. plenty of players probably do better in a more comfortable environment and most dont have social anxiety, so just leave that alone, as it has no context to being ‘comfortable’

    Comment by robby — August 23, 2012 @ 4:24 pm

  36. that comment didnt make sense.

    Comment by Sleight of Hand Pro — August 23, 2012 @ 5:03 pm

  37. well, over a sample the size of greinke’s career, ERA is a better measurement of future performance than FIP or xFIP.

    fatbot came across as a douche and all, but the quibble you made isnt where he went wrong.

    Comment by Sleight of Hand Pro — August 23, 2012 @ 5:05 pm

  38. boy, youre really reaching arent you?

    Comment by Sleight of Hand Pro — August 23, 2012 @ 5:06 pm

  39. in case you dont notice, many people havent ignored him, hence all the replies.

    Comment by Sleight of Hand Pro — August 23, 2012 @ 5:07 pm

  40. Yeah, Glavine was the master at that.

    Nice piece, Jeff. Facinating.

    Comment by wobatus — August 23, 2012 @ 5:09 pm

  41. L.A. is really not at all like Orange County (Anaheim).

    Comment by Bike — August 23, 2012 @ 5:57 pm

  42. Please stop Interneting

    Comment by Bike — August 23, 2012 @ 6:00 pm

  43. He’s only good at striking people out and not walking many.

    Comment by Drew — August 23, 2012 @ 6:16 pm

  44. I know ur being sarcastic but does votto really have SAD?

    Comment by Don Draper — August 23, 2012 @ 6:28 pm

  45. You don’t have to have a condition in order to be able to comment on it, and the field of medicine is thankful for this.

    Comment by Bip — August 23, 2012 @ 6:38 pm

  46. I think that there’s a legitimate question to be asked regarding why Greinke has such an atrocious LOB% over a not-insignificant sample of 2010-now, but you’re not asking that question, you’re asserting an explanation with no backing. But seriously, I think we should be asking that question.

    Comment by Bip — August 23, 2012 @ 6:43 pm

  47. If those were the only two things I was good at I’d be a happy guy.

    Comment by Bip — August 23, 2012 @ 7:10 pm

  48. Yes.

    Comment by 198d — August 23, 2012 @ 8:32 pm

  49. How is this different from claiming cERA is a real thing?

    Comment by Beantown — August 23, 2012 @ 10:07 pm

  50. Makes ya wonder why some very good pitchers had a certain catcher that they had as their caddy. That catcher wasnt likely the number one on the team, but still, when stud pitcher likes a certain catcher, who’s gonna argue with him.

    Comment by Cidron — August 23, 2012 @ 10:33 pm

  51. It’s laughable when baseball fans pretend to be doctors.
    Joey Votto does not have social anxiety disorder like Greinke does. Votto suffered from anxiety related to the death of his father – totally different, so don’t try to compare the two. Just because there is no objective proof that SAD would lead to Greinke’s poor performance, does not mean you can discount it.

    Comment by bbmd — August 24, 2012 @ 12:48 am

  52. Gallardo had 7 looking K against the Cubs in his last start, and he got every borderline call; even a couple pitches an inch or so below the strike zone were caught beautifully and called strikes. Small sample size and anecdotal evidence, but there might be something to Lucroy being a master framer.

    Comment by Feeding the Abscess — August 24, 2012 @ 1:55 am

  53. 1) Jeff’s not claiming anything thing, he’s speculating and he made that clear about five different times, including the actual title of the piece.

    2) What he’s suggesting is that catcher defense can impact a game, and that we might have a quantifiable way of showing how. Just because cERA has been proven to be pretty worthless doesn’t mean that catcher’s don’t make a difference defensively, it just means we need better metrics. This could be a step towards that.

    Comment by dnc — August 24, 2012 @ 3:08 am

  54. Not sure if his recent LOB% is generally considered atrocious, but it probably has a little something to do w/ his apparent conversion from flyball pitcher (particularly in a homepark that’s good against flyballs) to groundball pitcher over that period of time.

    Ground balls are probably more likely to advance runners than flyballs although you don’t get many extra base hits w/ GBs.

    And probably as part of that, his opponent BABIP has risen significantly in the last couple years as well — to the point of roughly matching his BABIP from the 2 years-and-change of badness when he was overcome by his SAD earlier in his career (not that this recent trend has anything to do w/ SAD though).

    Despite the bad rap on him, he seems like a smart guy, if unconventional, so maybe he’ll figure out what adjustments to make soon enough (or so my fantasy team hopes anyway).

    Probably one thing on his side though is the Angels infield D is probably (somewhat?) better than the Brewers infield D — at least that’s my impression w/out checking the stats anyway — so that should probably help his wormburning ways some me thinks…

    Comment by TheUncool — August 24, 2012 @ 7:37 am

  55. One day baseball fans will look back and wonder what they heck we were doing. We have the technology to get balls and strikes accurate, 100% of the time, and we fail to implement it.

    In doing that, we allow nonsense like “pitch framing” and “veteran reputation” to interfere with the game.

    Really. A thrown pitch is in the zone, or it is not. Nothing else about that throw pitch should matter. Period.

    Framing… reputation… command… expanding the zone… are all just euphemisms for INACCURATELY CALLED PITCHES.

    It’s just stupid.

    And MLB is going to work on utilizing instant replay on foul line calls??? For real? Seriously? This is the best they can do? How often does a seriously egregiously bad foul ball call happen?

    Inaccurately called balls and strikes happen EVERY SINGLE GAME!!! Usually many times. Often, many times in a single at bat.

    But everyone simply accepts it… “part of the game”… “tradition”… blah blah blah.

    You know what it really is?

    Its bullshit.

    Worse. Its inexcuseable bullshit. Because its FIXABLE.

    The very core of the game is riddled with errors. But we’re content to let MLB fiddle around on the edges. Video replay for foul line calls. Ugh.

    /end rant

    Comment by Dave S — August 24, 2012 @ 7:58 am

  56. It might just be the horrible traffic in LA, OCD cops, leafblowers and graffiti everywhere, lousy blaring Mexican music everywhere, etc.

    Comment by payroll — August 24, 2012 @ 12:06 pm

  57. I agree with nearly all of your rant.
    However, there is something that can be done about the poor ball and strike calling in MLB short of switching to electronics.
    Fire the bad umpires!
    Many MLB umpires have strike zones that look more like Pam Anderson’s figure than the zone dictated in MLB’s rulebook.
    I can’t think of any job outside politics where the employees do such a lousy job and are not punished for it.

    Comment by Baltar — August 24, 2012 @ 2:32 pm

  58. It’s a shame that it’s misapplied here, however. This is how bad memes start. Pitch framing is an interesting subject, and its analysis is in its infancy, but the last thing it needs is microscopic sample sizes and hasty, opportunistic interpretations.

    Some more details:

    * Iannetta has caught Greinke for only four games total.

    * Greinke pitched to a 3.81 ERA over those four games, getting tagged with a loss in only one of them. (Greinke’s 2011 ERA with the Brewers? 3.83)

    * In the game he “lost”, Greinke struck out eight over 7 IP, walked one, and gave up only 2 ERs, but the Angels offense was shut out by Tampa pitching.

    * The # of “extra strike” calls Greinke has received in those four games is slightly above league average, by Sullivan’s own estimation.

    * In the remaining three games, the Halos won one, and the other two were lost by the bullpen.

    * 8 of 12 ERs surrendered by Greinke over those three games were surrendered by the longball.

    * In the only game Iannetta did not catch, Greinke surrendered 6 ERs with Bobby Wilson receiving, and had his worst game.

    So Greinke pitched well enough over his short time with Iannetta receiving, but his offense got shutout in one game, his bullpen blew it for him in two others, and he won the fourth. The great majority of runs he gave up were largely his own doing — they were homeruns, not iffy strike calls at the edge of the zone. That’s as likely due to readjustment to the AL as anything else. And the one game he didn’t pitch with Iannetta behind the plate was his worst by far.

    Let’s hypothesize more about the impact of pitch framing on Greinke after his new catchers have had a little more than two weeks’ familiarity with him. Even if we were to take this tiny sample at face value — which would make us rather silly — we’re talking about 23 extra strike calls per 1000 (+28 vs +5). Or: two strikes per game. Certainly not enough to account for Greinke’s disappointing start with the Angels.

    Comment by Turks Teeth — August 24, 2012 @ 3:27 pm

  59. I guess we found sleight of hand pro’s alternate account.

    Comment by a — August 24, 2012 @ 6:20 pm

  60. This sounds like the veiled xenophobia hockey commentators use when talking about Russian players.

    Comment by a — August 24, 2012 @ 6:24 pm

  61. comment

    Comment by John — August 25, 2012 @ 2:54 pm

  62. have you seen Pam’s figure lately? It isn’t what it used to be, jus sayin

    Comment by Cidron — August 26, 2012 @ 3:44 pm

  63. Could it be that he’s just not as good as he showed back in 2009? Take that season away from his career, and his career ERA is 4.14, WHIP jumps to 1.31, he’s barely a .500 pitcher at 71-70… he’s only thrown 6 complete games and no shutouts without that season(not that he throws that anymore since it’s been two years without a complete game.)

    Look at how horrible he was in the postseason against the Diamondbacks and then Cardinals(after talking sh!t about Carpenter and Pujols.) Just look at his six starts with the Angels(two really good outings, four horrible ones where he deserved losses in all four.) Look at Verlander… dude gets 3.8 runs a game while Greinke gets 5.18 which isn’t bad. Guys like King Felix don’t get many runs either. Can a catcher make a pitcher better? Obviously… but Molina, Ruiz, Varitek(despite his noodle arm), but he’s always had decent catchers when it comes arm and throwing out runners, guys who covered a respectable range, etc…

    Greinke strikes out a lot of guys, doesn’t have swing and miss stuff like other strikeout pitchers, and avoids walks and homeruns. But he gives up a hit every inning. I’ve only seen the guy pitch an awesome game once where I thought, dude can pitch. I know I’m in the minority cause he’s big on these stats… but he’s not a guy who gives up one hit that gives him a 2-1 loss often. He has more than a few games that he gives up 10-14 hits, walks 3 to 5 guys, and just gets crushed. Just think what would happen if he went to New York or Boston and got a 5 year 95 million dollar contract. It’d be a disaster.

    Comment by Kyle — August 29, 2012 @ 7:50 pm

  64. If his anxiety has re-triggered, it certainly isn’t because of where he is playing. Anaheim, not LA, is where the Angels play, and it’s a smaller city than both Kansas City and Milwaukee.

    Comment by Dale — September 21, 2012 @ 12:29 am

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