Though it’s far too early to make any assessments about the NL Cy Young award (remember Ubaldo Jimenez last year?), I noted yesterday that certain of Zack Greinke’s numbers were actually better than they were at the end of his 2009 Cy Young season. Taking into account his latest start, the numbers just got better, so I thought I’d expound on just how well he’s pitching.
Greinke had by far the best year of his young career in 2009, going 16-8 and ending with a 2.16 ERA, good for first in the American League. He was also first in WHIP (1.07), third in K/9 (9.50), and second in strikeouts (242) , shutouts, and complete games. Greinke walked only two batters per nine innings, gave up only .43 HR/9, and stranded nearly 80% of baserunners. His fielder-independent pitching (FIP) ERA, one measure of a pitcher’s true skill, was 2.33, higher than his standard ERA, which means his defense bailed him out a bit.
Greinke is again having great success this year, but the Brewers’ defense isn’t doing him any favors. He’s rocking a 5.79 ERA, but his FIP is only 2.76. Combine that with his unlucky batting average on balls in play (.348), and you can see why he’s not getting credit for being an elite pitcher yet. But other peripheral stats say Greinke’s as good as he’s ever been. He’s striking out more batters (12.54 K/9) and walking fewer (.96 BB/9) through five starts than he did throughout his 2009 season.
There are a few troubling stats. In his four Miller Park starts, he’s given up four home runs, and through five he has a 1.61 HR/9 ratio, as opposed to 2009’s .43. He’s also inducing about 5% fewer ground balls than he did in 2009, and 11% fewer than in his down 2010 season.
So, three things need to happen for Greinke to have a shot at another Cy Young, only one of them he can control:
- He has to keep the ball down, especially at Miller Park.
- The Brewers defense needs to pick it up behind him.
- He needs to have a little luck go his way.
But make no mistake, even though it might not look it from the surface stats, the Brewers are getting the Greinke we thought we were.