Milwaukee's Zack Greinke entered July with a 5.63 ERA. After last night's seven inning, one run gem against the Dodgers, the erstwhile Royals ace now has a more palatable 3.92 mark. The simple, lazy narrative would be that the blockbuster trade pickup took time to adjust to his new surroundings and is now settling in.The truth is, Greinke has been dealing all season long.
Take a look at his year through the prism of Expected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP), an ERA estimator that evaluates pitchers by strikeouts, walks and a normalized home run per fly ball rate:
*Greinke missed April while recovering from fractured ribs suffered during a pick-up basketball game. What, the Bucks don't cause enough grief for Milwaukee's sports fans already?
Greinke's overall 2.31 xFIP is best in baseball among starters with 120-plus innings pitched. The main reason that he had a 5.63 ERA in May-June and a 2.19 ERA since is that his batting average on balls in play has dropped significantly.
Here's the league average BABIP by pitch location:
Nothing earth-shattering here, but pitches thrown down the middle have a much higher BABIP than those thrown around the corners of the strike zone.
Now, take a look at Greinke's BABIP by pitch location by month:
Greinke's BABIP was sky-high even on pitches hugging the corners during his first two months of action, but since July he's mainly giving up hits on pitches put in play that are belt high or catch the fat part of the plate. Here are Greinke's BABIP totals by month: .349 in May, .350 in June, .271 in July and .286 in August.
Greinke has pitched like an ace all year, and with better luck on balls put in play, his ERA is starting to reflect that.