Something About Zack Greinke Is Consistent

Zack Greinke pitched well this season. At first blush, his ERA does not suggest that to be the case. A 4.23 figure is more than two runs higher than his impossible to replicate 2.16 ERA from 2009. He won only nine games and lost 14. Although he has one start remaining, he will finish at least seven innings shy of his 2009 season tally. Our WAR metric values Greinke at five wins this season. In 2008, he posted a 4.9 WAR and last year he nearly captured the sum of the two seasons with a 9.4 WAR. Clearly, 2009 will be the pinnacle of Greinke’s pitching career.

If you go by WAR, Greinke is the fourth best pitcher over the last three seasons, ahead of CC Sabathia, Justin Verlander, Jon Lester, and everyone without the surnames Halladay, Lincecum, and Lee. Of course, that’s a tad unfair given the whole amazing 2009 season thing. This season, his WAR is higher than David Price‘s. Higher than Sabathia’s. Higher than all American League pitchers save a select few.

He will not receive consideration in the AL Cy Young voting and… well, whatever. He already has one of those trophies anyways. The weirdest aspect about Grenke’s stats extends beyond his WAR, his FIP, his ERA, and into his BABIP. Over the last four seasons – five, if you count the six innings he pitched in 2006 – Greinke’s BABIP has remained painstakingly similar:

2007: .316
2008: .318
2009: .313
2010: .316

Greinke is primarily a groundball pitcher nowadays and, as such, his infield defense should be taken into consideration. That’s the interesting part, because you would think with a high level of turnover (of players with 50 or more innings on the defensive infield in 2007, only Alex Gordon and Mike Aviles remain with the team) something would’ve clicked – either good or bad – with Greinke’s BABIP. Even with a historically great 2009 – as illustrated above – Greinke’s BABIP was right there with a decent 2007.

I have no idea if this pattern will hold true heading forward, but part of me hopes it does for curiosity’s sake.

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26 Responses to “Something About Zack Greinke Is Consistent”

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  1. Gio says:

    Why is it that in an article about Zack Greinke, his name is the one you can’t click on?

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  2. Will says:

    Different actors, same bad Dayton Moore-selected defense.

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  3. The Duder says:

    “Clearly, 2009 will be the pinnacle of Greinke’s pitching career”


    Why is that CLEARLY the case?

    Why would you state an opinion/forecast so definitively?

    Why does FG put up with such amateur journalism?

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    • Travis L says:

      I think it’s pretty clear that he’s not going to put up a 9 win season again. If he does, it’ll be very unexpected to me. I’m OK with clearly; I’m not OK with the harsh criticisms for a free product when you don’t have any alternatives to offer.

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      • Will says:

        I don’t agree with the harshness of the criticism offered, but the line didn’t read right for me when I read it either. I don’t know if I object more to the “clearly” or to the “pinnacle” part. If Greinke puts up an 8 WAR season next year (which isn’t impossible) is 2009 still the pinnacle? Or does it make sense to say, “wow, he had two insanely awesome seasons, and a bunch of good ones.”

        No big thing, but given that the statement is not really important to the article, a little more hedging does seem justified.

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      • WilsonC says:

        I do agree that definitive language should be avoided when dealing with an uncertain projection. Clearly, the chance of another 9 WAR season from him is slim, but the chance was also slim after his 2008 season. I’d bet against any particular pitcher reaching Greinke’s 2009 mark in his career, but Greinke’s more likely than most pitchers to achieve it.

        That said, this type of insulting criticism serves no purpose. Constructive criticism is great, and most most writers I know welcome respectful criticism in order to help them improve their skills. There’s no need for a melodramatic rant about the imperfection of writing on a free website when pointing out a minor issue with word choice that has absolutely nothing to do with the article.

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    • Definitely coming on a little strong, dude (why does FG put up with amateur journalism? Because they are: a. amateurs [by and large] and b. not journalists. FG is free, criticism is still ok, just be cool with it)

      Anyway, at least your comment got me a bit curious. Guys who have multiple 9+ WAR seasons (per B+R, 1961+):
      Bob Gibson
      Steve Carlton
      Sandy Koufax
      Wilbur Wood
      Roger Clemens
      Tom Seaver
      Juan Marichal

      Each has 2 seasons 9+. Another 15 have a single 9+ season. Greinke could do it again, but it would be very rare and an amazing accomplishment.

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      • You’re strictly an amateur, which I mean as a compliment — much of the best sabermetric research and writing has been done by amateurs. Thanks for answering the question that was on my mind when I read the heated post above.

        Most of the pitchers you found pitched in an errors in which starters threw a lot more innings — Wood’s two best season he three well over 300 innings. I would think the reduced workload by current pitchers makes it more challenging to reach a 9 WAR.

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      • Who? says:

        you forgot Pedro Martinez

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      • @Jonathan thanks! I noticed that when I was looking over the numbers, of B+R’s single season WAR chart, 330 player seasons were pre-1961, and the extremes seemed much higher. I don’t know nearly enough, but I’d find it interesting to look at trends in pitcher WAR through the eras.

        @who? Pedro had the incredible 10.1 WAR 2000 season, but according to Baseball-Reference his ’99 season was just under 9 which I used as a (completely arbitrary–Greinke’s season) cut-off (when counting multiple 9+ seasons). Other Pedro seasons: 8.4, 8.2, 7.4, 6.6 … just incredible. Never Forget (Pedro)

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      • don says:

        Their formula, somehow, thinks Greinke’s 2009 is 0.7 wins better then Pedro’s 1999. I wonder what on earth it’s doing to come to that conclusion.

        Greinke has 16 more innings. Pedro has 2 fewer HRs, 18 fewer walks, 71 more K’s, a lower ERA and every predictive ERA stat, a tougher pitcher’s park, and in a year with higher scoring. 16 IP can’t possibly be worth that much.

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      • Matthias says:

        I think we’re confusing some probabilities here. It’s true that the chances a pitcher puts up multiple 9-WAR seasons is an incredibly rare feat (much less than 1%, or even 0.01% of all pitchers).

        But the probability question here is different: What are the chances a pitcher puts up a second 9-WAR season, GIVEN that he already has one under his belt. The experimental probability would suggest about 7/22, or 31.5% (22 pitchers had a 9-WAR season, 7 went on to throw another one).

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      • Matthias says:

        Hmmmm I’m not a grammar major.

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    • chuckb says:

      Why do people get their rocks off making comments like this? Do you feel better after spewing your bile all over the page?

      a. 9.4 WAR is really, really hard to replicate
      b. see a.)
      c. they’re amateurs and we come to read what they have to say, not critique them in our attempt to discern who’s deserving of a Pulitzer and who isn’t.

      A better question is why do you bother to comment when you clearly have nothing meaningful to add to the discussion?

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  4. CircleChange11 says:

    Grienke has no luck at all. Karma neutral?

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  5. chuckb says:

    What’s interesting is the Cy Young voters will vote for 5 candidates this year, 1st place through 5th place. It’s commonly perceived that Price and Sabathia are 2 of the top 3 candidates in the AL and there’s a pretty good case to be made that neither is among the top 5 starters in the AL this year.

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    • Rich says:

      I still don’t understand why Sabathia is even in the CY discussion (other than the stripes on his uni).

      Yeah, hes got 21 wins, but even from a conventional stats standpoint, is 2 wins really more important than the fact that he gives almost an entire run more / 9 innings than a handful of guys who have 17-19 wins?

      DO people really not get that there’s two halves to an inning?

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      • The Nicker says:

        He also threw way more innings than a lot of those guys with 17-19 wins, hence why he has a higher WAR than pitchers like say David Price or Clay Buchholz despite similar FIPs.

        Not to mention, in my opinion, innings eaters get screwed a bit on WAR. After all, if we’re going to use chaining to measure reliever WAR, why would we not use chaining to measure starter WAR. If guy A throws 8 IP/start, and guy B throws 6 IP/start, A gets more credit for pitching 2 more IP, but he should get even more credit than that. After all, now A’s team only has to use 1 IP of their bullpen, which means they can use their best reliever only. Meanwhile, B’s team has two fill 3 IP with reliever, that may take 3-4 pitchers.

        This is a reason in addition to the actual benefits of saving the bullpen, which is the more general reason innings eaters are valued.

        I’m not saying Sabathia should win, I’m just saying the guys you seem to be implicitly referencing are less qualified than him. The guys that should be in consideration have 12 and 13 wins, respectively.

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  6. B N says:

    For my chiming in on the keynote phrase in the article (“Clearly, 2009 will be the pinnacle of Greinke’s pitching career.”), I both agree and disagree. In terms of single-handed dominance, I doubt he will beat that season. At best, tie it.

    On the other hand, it depends on what you call a pinnacle. If he pitched with 2008 numbers but won a world series, would that be a higher pinnacle? Or, if he got traded to the Padres and pitched a 10 WAR season with a great stadium and great defense… would that be better?

    The second point is particularly interesting. The 2009 Royals weren’t exactly a dream team to play for. Their defense was unimpressive, their run support was bad, and their bullpen was shallow. Greinke could pitch worse than he did in 2009 and actually end up with more wins, higher WAR, and a better ERA. In that case, which is the pinnacle? The one where you’re the lone hero on a team of zeros, or the one where you succeed greater but a greater share of the credit goes to other factors (park, defense, bullpen, etc).

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  7. bvillebaron says:

    Trade him to Atlanta this offseason Dayton.

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  8. JG says:

    Threw a lot less breaking balls this year. Wonder how his arm feels.

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  9. bSpittle says:

    > Clearly, 2009 will be the pinnacle of Greinke’s pitching career.

    Don’t agree.
    If he gets in front a good defense, who knows,

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