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Zack Greinke is the Best Pitcher in Baseball

Milwaukee’s own Zack Greinke (6-1; 4.69 ERA) is 6-1 for only the second time in his seven year baseball career.  The other time he was 6-1, the BBWAA gave him the award pictured above.  Equipment producer Mizuno gave him this.

However, no one is throwing a parade in a plaza for Greinke this time around.  Back in 2009, Greinke was sitting on a 0.50 ERA at this point, and could be considered a hard luck 6-1.  This time, NL opponents have scored 26 times off Greinke already.  But the differences are remarkable.  Greinke is stranding the lowest rate of baserunners in his career: 63.0%.  He is suffering from a flyball tendency in a way he has not struggled with since his formative days in Kansas City.  Greinke’s BABIP has soared over his last two starts (both wins) to .344 on the season.  And the reasoning for all those problems resulting in a 4.69 ERA instead of something more resembling the numbers he put up in Kansas City is exclusively related to the homerun ball.

Greinke has allowed six homers this year, including yesterday.  And those homers haven’t been of the common, solo variety either.  They’ve been potential back-breakers to the Brewers chances.  It’s a combination of the opponents being able to get the ball in the air, having runners on base against Greinke when it happens (Greinke is allowing a fraction over a baserunner per inning, so this has to regress at some point), and the Brewers defense simply not getting to balls in play.

But Greinke could care less about that ERA stat.  For the first time in his career, he plays for a team that bails him out by way of run support.  And Greinke himself, who has already scored twice this year, including the game tying run yesterday on a Rickie Weeks go-ahead 6th inning homer, is now part of that run support equation.  It’s really made all the difference for him to go for hoping to get 2 or 3 runs to work with from the Royals offense, and not even getting that at times, to being able to give up 3, 4, or even 5 runs in a start, and still find a way to be pitching from ahead deep in the game.

It is not probable, but it is possible, that Zack Greinke could do the whole career high in games won this season despite missing roughly five starts due to a DL stint for a fractured rib in March/April.  Greinke lost his first start coming off the DL in Atlanta, but having pitched at home in Miller Park in all but one of his next seven starts, the Brewers have managed to win each one of those seven games, now the longest single-season winning streak in games started by Zack Greinke (he had a longer one lasting from September 2008-May 2009).

Two years ago, there was a situation revolving around the all-star game starting pitcher, which Greinke had clearly identified as either himself or Toronto’s Roy Halladay.  Two years later, we can wonder if anything has really changed.  Greinke is in the National League, as is Halladay.  Cliff Lee is a pitching leaderboard mainstay.  Felix Hernandez also has a Cy Young award to show for his efforts.  One of those four pitchers has to be the best pitcher in baseball.

The majority would probably sat that Halladay is still the best.  It’s hard to disagree.  Greinke probably wouldn’t disagree.  Look at the year to year production.  Roy Halladay is still the toughest pitcher to beat in a major league game.

The only group of people I might think of that could disagree is National League hitters.  Collectively, I don’t know if there’s a group out there who has less success than NL hitters against Greinke.  60 players have struck out against Greinke this year.  56 players have reached base against Greinke this year.  If dominance for a pitcher is represented by those two numbers even being close (like they were in 2009 for Greinke, or they have been for Halladay throughout his career), the pace Greinke is on in 2011 is nothing short of historic.

There’s just no reason to think he can keep that pace up.  Unless, of course, you believe that Greinke is better than he was in 2009.  I’m not saying he is.  I’m also not saying he isn’t.  What I am saying is, from the perspective of hitters alone, putting aside his value to an organization or all-star credentials or other distractions, Zack Greinke is the most dangerous pitcher in baseball to face, and also possibly the very best.

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  1. July 16, 2011 at 9:40 am

    It is not probable, but it is possible, that Zack Greinke could do the whole career high in games won this season despite missing roughly five starts due to a DL stint for a fractured rib in March/April.

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