Zack Greinke in His New Home

The trade deadline rush has not disappointed so far, and the latest big news is that Brewers General Manager Doug Melvin delivered on his promise to move Zack Greinke. Greinke is now an Angel. Marc Hulet already covered the prospects that the Angels sent to Milwaukee.

Was it a “good” trade? Well, the Brewers are not going anywhere, and Greinke is going to be a free agent who will be expecting a big payday, especially with Cole Hamels now off of the market. The Angels gave up some decent prospects (even if none of them looks likely to be a future superstar), but they are obviously built to win right now. If the standings remain the same (which is a big “if,” even for a good team like the Angels), Los Angeles will be in the playoffs. Greinke gives them even more gas in the rotation. What all this means for the “fairness” of the trade is something for others to sort out. I want to briefly take a look at how Greinke might fit in in the Anaheim and how imposing the Angels’ rotation looks for the playoffs.

On Friday I posted that 2009 was a long time ago. Greinke’s 2009 AL Cy Young campaign was an incredible year, but it was obvious even at the time that it was a career year. Of course, regressing from a nine-win season still leaves plenty of room to be awesome. While Greinke’s 2010 in Kansas City was relatively disappointing, and his ERA has never quiet matched his FIP, he still projects as an excellent pitcher. ZiPS projects his true talent ERA to be around 3 as of this writing (late Friday night/Saturday morning), with a projected FIP of 2.63. The only starter in the majors with a better ZiPS projected FIP as of this writing is Stephen Strasburg. So, yeah, Greinke is pretty good.

In the past, Greinke has had occasional problems with the longball, even if he has increased his ground ball tendency over the last few seasons. Park factors are difficult to compare between leagues, but they can still tell us something. While both the Brewers’ and Angels’ home parks both slightly favor pitchers compared to league average, their component profiles are different. The relevant difference here is that Miller Park inflates home run rates by about six percent compared to the average (the “103” listed in the table is already adjusted to account for the team playing half of it games away from home), and Angels Stadium deflates them by about six percent. That should help Greinke with the dingers.

I will leave aside commenting on having Mike Trout rather than Ryan Braun playing left field. It should be said that Greinke will also face some challenge moving back to the American League — even aside from the AL’s overall superior talent level, not getting able to pitch to pitchers any more will probably hurt him a bit, so the shift is not all rosy for him.

While I am not one to place too much emphasis on the impact one player can reasonably be projected to have on a team in the playoffs, putting Greinke alongside the rest of the Angels’ rotation pretty clearly makes it the best one going forward. That assumes they make it in, of course, and there is still plenty of time for someone to go on the DL. But adding yet another “ace”-level pitcher means that the Angels are now much better equipped to deal with an injury to one of their starters if that should happen.

Even if one excludes Haren because of his performance and injuries this season, this trade arguably gives Los Angeles three ace-level pitchers. While neither Jered Weaver‘s nor C.J. Wilson‘s projections see them as being as good as their 2012 performance to date, adding Zack Greinke to a rotation already having two pitchers with ERAs under three is pretty nice. Even with Haren’s problems, when he is the team’s number four, that is a heck of a rotation, quite likely the best in the American League at the moment.

Of course, the Phillies never made the World series with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels all in the rotation, so, yes, we have to remember that the playoffs are a very much a game of chance. If one thinks about that at length, one might wonder whether this trade is really worth it for the Angels if they are going to go to the playoffs anyway. However, they are not in yet and injuries (especially to pitchers) are always lurking. And finally, once again: the Angels did not exactly hide their desire to win big and win now during their off-season spending spree. In for a dime, in for a dollar.

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Matt Klaassen reads and writes obituaries in the Greater Toronto Area. If you can't get enough of him, follow him on Twitter.

19 Responses to “Zack Greinke in His New Home”

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  1. Aaron (UK) says:

    “…if they are going to go to the playoffs anyway.”

    They might be a decent bet to make the playoffs anyway, but acquiring Greinke gives them a much better chance of catching Texas for the division. Given the new format that is a huge consideration. Indeed, as the articles on here in the last week suggest, the teams that should probably be fortifying are the ones in division races – not the wild card one.

    Given also the advantage of facing the wild-card winner, who will likely have burnt one ace (if not two) there could also be value in fortifying to try to secure the best record in your league. Of course this also gets you home advantage in the LCS.

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    • joser says:

      Yes, when I saw

      If the standings remain the same… Los Angeles will be in the playoffs.

      I immediately thought No, they have to play a game and thus have essentially a coin-flip’s chance to be in the playoffs. It’s a huge difference compared to previous years, and definitely changes the calculus of teams that aren’t leading their divisions. Winning the West counts for a lot more now, and obviously bolstering their rotation helps with that. But if they do end up with one of the wild cards, having another ace in their pocket means they’re far less handicapped than they would’ve been when facing a play-in game followed by a short series.

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  2. Angelsjunky says:

    Couple the acquisition of Greinke with Haren just having his best start since May 29, and the Angels just got a helluva lot better. Their biggest problem this year has been highly unstable pitching from 60% of their rotation; that number just dwindled to 20%, so now the problem has been reduced to who out of Santana, Williams, Richards, and Mills to start in the 5th slot – not a bad problem to have.

    Maybe I’m a homer, but I think this trade puts the Angels as the slight favorites to win the division; maybe about equal with Texas considering the four game lead.

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    • chuckb says:

      You’re definitely a homer if you think Haren’s spot in the rotation went from “highly unstable” to “stable” based on 1 start. I like Haren but 1 start tells you nothing.

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      • Joe says:

        Based on 2 starts… Coming back from an injury…

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      • Angelsjunky says:

        Actually, my wording was pretty specific: I simply said that Haren’s spot is no longer “highly unstable,” which leaves room for a wide range of possibility, from “somewhat” or “a bit” unstable to stable, to very stable, etc. But you’re right, I’m not ready to call him “stable” after one good start, but considering he’s had his best start in two months I’m reasonably confident his spot is no longer “highly unstable.”

        We also have to look at his track record: he’s been one of the most consistent starters in baseball for something like seven years. From what I gathered he was nursing an injury this year but looks rested, hopefully healed.

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    • Baltar says:

      Greinke’s a very good pitcher, but not so good as to be a favorite to be worth 5 wins in the last 1/3 of the season.
      Therefore, this trade most certainly does not make the Angels the favorite to catch Texas. It unquestionably improves their chances to do so and greatly improves their likelihood of hanging on to a wildcard slot.

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      • Angelsjunky says:

        Actually, I said that the trade – coupled with a revived Haren – at least brings them equal to Texas. This isn’t something that can truly be statistically quantified, but if we want to the numbers are close:

        We’re about 62% of way through the season. Here are the current WAR totals and paces for the relevant pitchers:

        Greinke 3.8 (6.1 pace)
        Haren 1.3 (2.1 pace)
        Santana -0.5 (-0.8 pace)
        Williams 1.2 (pace depends upon starts)
        Richards 0.1

        Let’s say Greinke replaces Santana in the rotation and continues at his current pace; his addition 2.3 WAR plus the different in Santana’s additional -0.3 WAR means that he adds roughly 2.5 wins alone. Now let’s say that Haren is back to about halfway between this year and last year (6.4), so a 4.2 WAR pace for the rest of the year. That would mean an additional 1.6 WAR for the rest of the year.

        1.6 + 2.5 = 4+ WAR difference.

        We can also assume that Scioscia will dabble with Williams, Richards, and Santana in the #5 spot, with the best performing getting most of the starts down the stretch. Hopefully that will improve things a bit.

        And of course none of this takes into account psychological effects, which statistical formulas don’t touch. Having Greinke will hopefully boost the team overall, making them perform better.

        So yeah, I stick by my assertion that the addition of Greinke and an improved Haren brings the Angels to a more level playing field with the Rangers, maybe even surpasses them. Now of course if Texas trades for Shields…

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      • Joe says:

        WAR is not so additive like that on a team. Also, the Angels are 4 GB with no help from Greinke yet.

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      • Turks Teeth says:

        This neglects the fact that the Rangers achieved their current margin in April, when the Angels were a differently constructed team. The day Mike Trout was called up, the Rangers were 9 games ahead of the Angels — now they are 4 games ahead. The Angels shaved off five games over 77 with 62 to go.

        Assuming current W-L rates, the Angels would’ve caught the Rangers by season’s end, without the addition of Greinke. You should see some confirmation of this in the fact that the Angels have won their last two series against the Rangers gong back two months.

        Of course, anything can happen in the 10 weeks, but the fact is, Texas is not a 4 win superior team as constructed — they are actually an inferior team than the Angels at the moment, just as the Angels were an inferior team to Texas in April, before the additions of Trout, Frieri and Greinke, and the return to form of Pujols.

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  3. Ender says:

    I find it really odd that you would single out Braun defensively since he is roughly an average LF now and the team has a whole bunch of negative defensive players.

    I consider Greinke the teams ace at this point. I would be starting him in game 1 of any playoff game.

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    • AngelgoBlue says:

      Weaver starts, hes unquestionably the ace

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      • colin says:

        I question it.

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      • Turks Teeth says:

        And I’d say that the only reason many folks question it is the tyranny of FIP and xFIP, which are frankly two of the most incomplete and flawed stats in the sabermetric toolkit. Actually, they’d be fine if enthusiasts ddn’t treat them as totalizing metrics, instead of partial views on performance.

        Reducing performance analysis to what can be easily measured is not the same as comprehensive evaluation. FIP shits on efficient groundball pitchers and fetishizes the inefficiency of strikeout pitchers — because it doesn’t admit the features that would enable a fuller quantitative assessment of performance. Weaver has better walk rates, strand rates, longball rates, HR/FB rates, earned run rates than his 2010 season, but xFIP dings him by almost a full run in 2012 vis-a-vis 2010 on the basis of reduced strikeout rates.

        FIP reduces too many potential knowns to unknowns, and fails to deliver in the long view. FIP and xFIP (and derived stats) have considered Jered Weaver “lucky” his entire career, and that of course is just bullshit.

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      • Dave says:

        Okay, but Greinke is at least Weaver’s equal in the batted-ball-based metrics, too, and is ahead of him this year by a pretty decent margin. Whoever you think is better, it’s certainly inaccurate to say that Weaver is “unquestionably” the team’s ace.

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  4. Andre says:

    I’m excited for this. Of course I’ll be even more excited if the Rangers don’t pick up Shields or Johnson.

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  5. JW says:

    Perhaps the Angels are thinking that they are fortifying for a post-wild-card-game divisional series, in which they can only start a putative #1 starter once. The effects of such a game, and the need to align their rotation for the playoffs, seems like much less of a concern for them given their new top four.

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  6. ppabich says:

    The Angels have $39 million coming off the books guaranteed next year. And club options for both Santana at $13 mil and Haren at $13 mil.

    The Angels could pretty easily afford (only if they are making money this year) another big name FA or two. It would also be pretty easy to back load contracts to take advantage of Wells’ deal coming off the books after 2014.

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  7. Buck says:

    Brewer centerfielders have struggled defensively all season even Gomez who has nursed an injury but let’s take a backhanded swipe at Braun who has contunued to improve in the field

    He’s not great but Braun continues to get better

    Expect better.

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