Fronting the Rotation: Kansas City

Continuing on from my look at the duo of Derek Lowe and Javier Vazquez atop Atlanta’s rotation, I had planned tonight to highlight the performances of Zack Greinke and Gil Meche at the head of the Kansas City Royal’s rotation. Then Gil Meche had to go and get rocked tonight. Oops. Skipping right over that (no, I’ll come back to it), let us look at what these two have done so far.

Coming into play today, Zack Greinke led the major leagues with a 1.45 FIP and Gil Meche was sitting not too far behind in fourth at 1.82. tRA, another pitching metric that takes batted ball profiles into account, agrees with FIP, ranking Greinke 3rd and Meche 5th in baseball. Clearly, these two have been among the best pitchers this season. This should not come as too big of a surprise seeing that Meche and Greinke both ranked inside the top 25 pitchers by FIP last season as well.

Zach Greinke has upped his strikeout rate to almost one out of every three batters faced while simultaneously chipping away at his walk rate slightly as well. Greinke’s batted ball profile has not moved much, but he has yet to allow a home run which is the main culprit in keeping his FIP so deflated. That is certainly not going to hold up and given the little change so far, it would not be outlandish to still expect a repeat of 2008 from Greinke. Of course, that’s still a fantastic season.

Before today, Gil Meche‘s success had been tied to cutting his walk rate by more than half while slightly upping his strikeout rate, sort of the opposite good version of Greinke’s season to date. However, Meche walked five of 22 batters faced today which more than doubles his walk rate and bring it to just under his 2008 level. He did manage to avoid yielding any home runs though, keeping his season total at zero along with Greinke. The difference there is that Meche has seen a dramatic increase in ground balls, continued today, going from a ground ball rate in the low 40s to mid 50s so far in 2009. If Meche can hold that rate, even though he will eventually start allowing home runs, he will be on track to see a legitimate improvement from his already solid 2008 numbers.

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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.

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