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Entries in Zack Greinke (10)


Greinke and BABIP

Zack Greinke of the Milwaukee Brewers will finish the season with a high BABIP.  He enters the action Wednesday night with a .325 mark, 13th highest among major league qualifiers.  Batting average on balls in play for a pitcher is often influenced by the defense behind the pitcher, and by luck.  In Greinke's case, he may share a great deal of responsibility for his high BABIP.

Take a look at Greinke's BABIP by the type of count, along with his percentile ranks:


Grienke 2011BABIPPercentile Rank
Hitter Counts 0.378 12%
Pitcher Counts 0.299 36%
Even Counts 0.320 30%


When Greinke is ahead or even in the count, his BABIP is poor but not terrible.  When he falls behind, however, hitters smash the ball.  Why?

When Zack gets ahead in the count, he uses his slider, which dives out of the strike zone:

Zack Greinke, pitch frequency in pitcher counts, 2011 season.When he falls behind in the count, he abandons the slider and throws fastballs in the strike zone:

Zack Greinke, pitch frequency in hitter counts, 2011 season.Greinke's not trying to fool batters, he's trying not to walk them.  A little history is important here.  When Zack played for the Royals, Brian Bannister pitched with him.  Bannister understood sabermetrics, including the idea that a pitcher was primarily responsible for walks, home runs and strikeouts.  If a pitcher minimized BB and HR, and maximized Ks, he then just needed to let the defense take care of the rest.

To Zack, a .378 BABIP in hitters counts means the opposition is making an out over 60% of the time.  That's much better than a walk, where the batter reaches base 100% of the time.  Sure, the Brewers could use a better defense behind him, but given his 15-6 record and 3.86 ERA. it appears Zack made the right choice.


Greinke's Results, Processes Match Up

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:

May: 2.06

June: 2.45

July: 2.19

August: 2.59

*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.



Top Curveballs by Contact

(Min. 50 curveballs thrown in 2011)

Prior to the beginning of this season, we took a look at the change in Zack Greinke's (MIL) curveball between 2009 and 2010.  Getting his curveball back on track is important for Greinke this year, especially if he is going to get back to his Cy Young form from two years ago.

So far this season, batters are swinging and missing at his curve at a higher rate than against any other pitchers' curve.  He's yielded only one hit off the pitch, a ground ball single to Jose Tabata (PIT) on May 15th.

In 2009, Greinke had an average BrkZ (vertical inches of break from spin) reading on his curveball of -4.2.  In 2010, that number was cut in half to -2.0 inches of downward break - and as noted in the previous post on Greinke, batters were teeing off on it.  This season, his curve has a BrkZ reading of -6.8.  While his overall numbers haven't been great through his first 4 starts, a working curveball is a good sign for the 2009 Cy Young winner.