Zack Greinke Finds His Zone

Every season, there’s one pitcher whose results completely undersell his skills as a pitcher. This year, it’s Zack Greinke. Through his first nine starts, Greinke’s strikeout to walk ratio sat at 70 to nine. Naturally, then Greinke’s ERA was 5.23 entering Tuesday night’s start against Tampa Bay. Those around Milwaukee started to wonder about the supposed ace, trying to find reasons for his failures, ranging from just losing his control in big spots to the old standby, his history of mental issues.

Last night, Greinke finally found his ace zone, putting together easily his best start of the season. He went seven innings against a Rays lineup loaded with left-handed batters, striking out ten, inducing 11 ground balls in 16 balls in play, and now allowing a single walk. Such fantastic peripheral numbers are no stranger to Greinke on this young season. He struck out ten batters in his previous start against the Chicago Cubs, but allowed eight runs. This time, the results fit the peripherals: the Rays only managed one run on four hits.

Dave Cameron wrote extensively about the relationship between luck and BABIP on Tuesday. I feel this paragraph applies very well to Zack Greinke, the victim of a .360 overall BABIP and a shocking .500 BABIP with runners in scoring position before Tuesday’s start:

But there’s also an unsustainable effect in play when it comes to throwing pitches that are easy or hard to hit. If a pitcher throws a bunch of hanging curve balls that are getting smacked all over the field, the catcher will eventually stop calling for them. Or, he might learn that he can’t throw that pitch in that location, and make an adjustment. Hitters make adjustments, too — they’ll watch video, realize that a pitcher likes to spot a certain pitch in a particular location, and once they expect it, the results will change.

This may have been an issue with Greinke. He’s been giving up more home runs than ever before, and the easiest explanation is that he’s throwing more hittable pitches. Maybe he just hasn’t been as sharp from the stretch due to missing spring training, and that could partially explain his .500 BABIP with runners in scoring position.

However, I would add yet another situation where pitchers can either benefit or suffer from good or bad luck, one which has been negatively impacting Zack Greinke this season. Greinke has made a number of fantastically placed pitches which hitters have still managed to place for hits, even home runs. The best example of this is Logan Morrison’s first two at-bats against Greinke during the Brewers/Marlins series at the beginning of June. The circled pitches here (image from TexasLeaguers.com) both resulted in line drive doubles down the left field line from Morrison.

Those aren’t considered typically hittable pitches, and yet Greinke got shelled by Morrison.

Every pitcher makes mistakes, and those mistakes usually get hit. Greinke’s mistakes have been hit, surely, but so have many of his objectively good pitches. Finally, his luck seems to be turning, and maybe in two more months his results will actually indicate just how excellent a pitcher Zack Greinke actually is.



Print This Post



Jack Moore's work can be seen at VICE Sports and anywhere else you're willing to pay him to write. Buy his e-book.


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Kiddie Love
Guest
4 years 11 months ago

I put 100 bucks on the Brewers to win the pennant because of this article. Thanks. Payout is saweeet still.

channelclemente
Guest
4 years 11 months ago

When Greinke arrived late off the DL, he focused on throwing his pitches to location and not sequencing them. Every hitter knows, or should, his low and away slider, fastball combination preference and sat on it. What he’s skillfully done of late is added sight line variation with the high, and inside pitch or curveball to his pitch sequence progression. If your a NL hitter, the year just got a lot tougher. By the way Zach is a fangraph fanatic, I here he spends lots of time here, and is committed to many of these ‘tools’ to sharpen his game.

STEALTH
Guest
STEALTH
4 years 11 months ago

I drafted Greinke in 0 of my fantasy leagues, traded for him three times in the last two weeks, two of the instances coming between the Cubs loss and the Rays win. I like what I see, can’t see the ERA staying where it has been. He’s a good bet to be a top 10 SP the rest of the way, if not edging into the top 5.

lexomatic
Guest
lexomatic
4 years 11 months ago

Or maybe the high babip against is somewhat sustainable because the team defense is so bad? I should check that, it is bad, isn’t it?

jim
Guest
jim
4 years 11 months ago

they have yuni betancourt… it’s bad, dont worry.

joser
Guest
joser
4 years 11 months ago

Odds are they won’t have him all season, or at least they won’t be playing him. As long as the Brewers remain in the race, that’s the obvious upgrade at the trade deadline (and given the bar Yuni has set, finding an upgrade shouldn’t be hard — the Mariners have started four different middle infielders this season that are better than Yuni, for example, though the Brewers may have to take Chone along with a Yuni replacement in much the same way they had to take Yuni to get Greinke)

kick me in the GO NATS
Guest
kick me in the GO NATS
4 years 11 months ago

I say the Brewers should trade Bentacourt and a couple of prospects to the marlins for Ramirez.

Kool
Guest
Kool
4 years 11 months ago

What prospects?

Travis
Guest
4 years 11 months ago

All of them should work.

Antonio Bananas
Guest
Antonio Bananas
4 years 11 months ago

Screw prospects, trade cash to the Marlins. Give the owner money, it’s all they care about. Tell them you’ll pay for his contract and give them 2 million dollars extra for the boss.

As for Greinke, he is aware of FIP. I think he’s a pitcher who’s skillset makes it so FIP is a good predictor of how well he’s pitching. With the Brewer’s lack of D, it’d be best to have a bunch of punch-out pitchers. Greinke fits that.

If they make the playoffs, I like their chances. In the playoffs you can pitch 3 guys. Which means that Greinke, Gallardo, and Marcum will be their starters. I feel like those 3 can match up with the Braves, Giants, and Phillies rotations if any of those teams are their opponents. Even if their rotations are slightly better, the brewer’s offense is so much better that it equalizes any pitching advantage.

NEPP
Guest
NEPP
4 years 11 months ago

If Greinke and Gallardo get the results they’re both capable of, the Brewers are a bullpen arm away from being the team to beat in the NL.

wpDiscuz