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Entries in Zack Greinke (10)

Monday
Dec102012

Greinke, Kershaw Get Ks in Different Ways

Now that Zack Greinke has joined the Dodgers, signing the richest contract in history for a right-handed starting pitcher, he'll team up with another ace who may well set the money record for southpaws in Clayton Kershaw. They give L.A. a pair of elite strikeout artists, as Greinke ranks 14th in K/9 among starters over the past three seasons and Kershaw places fifth. But they rack up those Ks in far different ways. Greinke lets batters get themselves out on pitches off the plate, while Kershaw challenges them to touch his sinister stuff.

Here's a look at where Greinke and Kershaw got their strikeouts during the 2012 season:

Location of Greinke's strikeouts, 2012

Greinke goes out of the zone when he's looking for a strikeout, throwing just 37% of his pitches over the plate with two strikes. That's well below the 41.4% MLB average for starters in two-strike counts. Going out of the zone so often, Greinke got about 57% of his strikeouts on chase pitches, compared to the 54.5% average for starters. In fact, the only starter to register more Ks on out-of-zone pitches last year was Felix Hernandez.

Location of Kershaw's strikeouts, 2012

By contrast, Kershaw's approach can be summed up as: "Here it is, I dare you to hit it." He placed 43.2% of his two-strike pitches within the strike zone. While Greinke induced lots of strikeouts on chase pitches, Kershaw got less than half of his Ks (49.3%) on out-of-zone offerings. Kershaw had the fourth-most strikeouts on in-zone pitches last year, trailing just R.A. Dickey, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer. Kershaw is more confrontational than Greinke when it comes to throwing inside, too: About 47% of the lefty's Ks came on inner-half pitches, compared to 28% for Greinke (39.5% average for starters).

According to Baseball-Reference, the only Dodgers duos to register 200+ Ks in the same season are Stan Williams and Sandy Koufax (1961), Koufax and Don Drysdale (1962-65), Koufax and Don Sutton (1966), Sutton and Bill Singer (1969), and Kevin Brown and Chan Ho Park (2000). With Greinke going away and off the plate and Kershaw bullying hitters with inside, in-zone pitches, look for another pair to be added to that club in 2013.

Monday
Jul022012

Greinke an All-Star at Preventing Homers

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's pitch location, 2012

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:

Greinke's ground ball rate by pitch location, 2012

Average ground ball rate by pitch location, 2012

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.

Thursday
Feb022012

Greinke's Many Curveballs

A free agent after the 2012 season, Zack Greinke is on the cusp of signing a mega free agent deal. The Brewers righty is 28 years old and has proven to be one of the game's best, most durable starters over the past four seasons. Greinke ranks 12th among starting pitchers in both ERA+ (126) and Baseball-Reference Wins Above Replacement (17.2) since 2008, easily topping 200 innings from 2008-2010 before falling short this past year after cracking a rib during a pickup hoops game.

But I'm guessing Greinke already knew those things. He's currently representing himself, after all, and he might throw the league a curve by going into free agency agentless. Greinke is no stranger to throwing others for a loop -- just take a look at his curveball.

Greinke has thrown his curve at an average of 74.8 mph since 2008, but that doesn't tell the whole story. He really has about five or six different curves, thrown at anywhere from 59 mph all the way up to 87 mph. Take a look at Greinke's curveball distribution, by speed:

Curveball SpeedPct. Of Total Curves Thrown
Less than 60 mph 0.3%
61-65 mph 3.0%
66-70 mph 17.0%
71-75 mph 32.3%
76-80 mph 24.3%
81+ mph 23.1%

 

Greinke uses his slow, medium and fast curveballs for different purposes. At the far ends of the spectrum, his slow, looping curve thrown at 61-65 mph and his power curve at 81+ mph are thrown out of the strike zone and are used to get chases. From 66-80 mph, Greinke throws his curve for strikes:

Curveball SpeedPct. Thrown in Strike ZoneChase Pct.
61-65 mph 34% 29%
66-70 mph 49% 22%
71-75 mph 56% 18%
76-80 mph 52% 23%
81+ mph 36% 42%

 

As you might expect, Greinke uses his slow (61-65 mph) and power (81+ mph) curves when he's ahead of the hitter. Seventy percent of his slow curves have been thrown in pitcher's counts, and 60 percent of his power curves.

If he gets through 2012 intact, Greinke could be looking at a $100 million contract next winter -- we just don't know where he'll sign or who will negotiate that pact. GMs, like hitters, are left wondering what Greinke will do next.