Having strong starting pitching at the top of a rotation is important for any team’s success. Los Angeles Dodgers starter Zack Greinke joins Clayton Kershaw to form the best 1-2 punch in baseball. Ian York takes a look at Greinke’s repertoire and what makes him special.
Zack Greinke is on another scale.
This is true both figuratively and literally. Greinke is easily the best starter in baseball this year, and by just about any measure, it isn’t even close. But besides that, Greinke also messes up my charts’ scales. On charts that are scaled to show typical pitchers’ WHIP, Greinke’s numbers hide against the X axis:
Greinke throws five different pitches (plus, if he wants to completely humiliate you, an eephus pitch; he threw two of them this year, yielding one ball and one out). Most of his pitches are well separated from each other. The curve has extreme movement: Break length averages 14.7 inches as measured by PITCHf/x, ranging from a low of 12 inches (which is just under the average of about 12.5), to a high of 18.5 inches – these are the pitches that spilled off the usual scale:
His other pitches, by the numbers, are not extraordinary for their speed or break. Greinke’s strength is his superb command. All his pitches have excellent location; very little is in the center of the zone, and most of his pitches are in tight clusters around the edges of the strike zone, though his breaking pitches often drop well out of the zone at the last moment. Here is an assortment of Greinke’s pitch locations from this year:
Greinke’s superb location can be seen in his All-Star game start this year, where he struck out four batters in two innings. Here are his pitches against Adam Jones, in the second inning:
His first and third pitches are sliders that start off looking like strikes, but drop out of the bottom of the zone; Jones holds off on both, but takes a called strike on a fastball that is exactly at the bottom of the zone, and swings at a two-seam fastball (or sinker) and a change that are also exactly on the bottom of the zone.
Finally, speaking of going off the scale, let’s take a look at one of the two eephus pitches he threw this year. This one was in the 6th inning on September 1. The eephus pitch was a ball, but he sandwiched it between a set of sliders on the outer edge of the zone and struck out Duffy in four pitches: