Brewers ace Zack Greinke might not be an All-Star even though ranks among the NL's leaders in ERA+ (146), strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.6) and Wins Above Replacement (2.9). But Greinke can take solace in knowing his impending free agency will make him an absurdly wealthy man, whether in Milwaukee or elsewhere. Like, "Scrooge McDuck diving in a pool of gold coins" rich. Five of Matt Cain's free agent years were valued at about $113 million at a time when he had a career 124 ERA+ in a little over 1,300 innings pitched. Greinke has a career 116 ERA+ in nearly 1,400 innings. He can make a case for $20 million a year.
A big reason why Greinke is enjoying his best season since 2009 and is primed to cash in is that he has cut his home run rate to a career-best 0.4 per nine innings. He's pounding hitters at the knees and generating ground balls like never before.
Check out Greinke's pitch location this season. He's staying low in the zone, rarely hanging a ball above the belt:
Greinke has thrown about 58 percent of his pitches low in the zone, the highest rate among all MLB starting pitchers this season. And those low pitches are generating grounders by the bushel. Here's his ground ball rate by pitch location, and then the league average:
By keeping the ball low, Greinke has induced ground balls about 54 percent of the time this season. His career ground ball rate entering the year, by contrast, was a near dead ringer for the league average (44.5 percent).
Tony La Russa might not fully appreciate Greinke's great work. But this 28-year-old with strikeout stuff and newly-found ground ball tendencies is at the top of many a GM's wish list.