Friday, August 30, 2013

Greinke And His Key Change

Old piece from Deadspin, but a great article on how Zack Greinke has changed his pitch repertoire and improved results:

Greinke has pitched past the sixth inning in all but four of his starts since then. He's allowed more than three earned runs just three times. His ERA has fallen all the way to 2.86. He has 77 strikeouts and just 24 walks in his last 13 starts—totals that include a seven-walk outing against the Rockies in early July, when L.A.'s offense bailed him out. Greinke is also inducing a lot more ground balls: 71 in his first nine starts, 133 in his last 13.

This chart illustrates what's different. Notice the spike in the percentage of changeups Greinke has thrown in the last month:

In June, Greinke threw his changeup just 9.58 percent of the time. In July, that number ticked up slightly, to 10.50 percent. But in his five starts this month, fully one in five of his pitches (20.99 percent) has been a changeup. He's throwing it twice as frequently as he did last month; he hasn't used it this often in a full month at any point in his career.

In fact, per Brooks Baseball, Greinke has already thrown nearly as many changeups in five starts this month (115) as he did in 12 combined starts in June and July (125). He's also gotten hitters to swing at 55.65 percent of his changeups in August.

The chart below demonstrates how Greinke has thrown more changeups of late at the expense of his three power pitches: the four-seam fastball, sinker, and cutter. Hitters just haven't been able to catch up. All of a sudden, the $147 million contract the Dodgers signed Greinke to last winter looks like a perfectly reasonable investment.

Down in the comments of this article, our old friend MSTI also got some love, as Mike Petriello looked at pitch selection and found Greinke's decreasing reliance on his slider:

There’s more than a few recent studies that point to slider usage being a concern for elbow health, and as we know Greinke dealt with exactly that problem this spring. My guess here — and that’s all it is — is not that he’s still feeling pain and therefore can’t throw it, but that he’s attempting to head off any future issues by avoiding it. (Again, total speculation there.)

But without his slider, he’s not getting lit up — far from it. Really, the takeaway from this for me is that Greinke is even more impressive than I thought he was. How many pitchers can you think of who could simply stop using their most effective pitch and still keep runs off the board in the way he has? He may not pile up the strikeouts in the way that we’d hope, but he’s more than making up for it. Incredible.

Greinke has indeed been an incredible pickup for us this season, and hopefully far beyond. Keep up the good work, Zack!