NLCS Scouting: Greinke vs. Garcia

Why, hello to you too.

Toinght, 8:10pm: Zack Greinke vs. Jaime Garcia.

Zack Greinke (3.83 ERA, 2.66 SIERA)

Greinke has spawned a Twitter war this afternoon, as everyone seemingly wants to chime in on why his ERA is so much worse than his peripherals. No matter your stance, though, it’s worth remembering that Greinke is still quite a good pitcher. His strikeout rate this season has been unreal (10.5 K/9) and he’s kept his walk rate low (2.4 per nine), and batters have swung and missed at over 10% of his pitches. He’s been dominant against both hands, and his big problem was that he allowed a large number of hits (.318 BABIP) and home runs (13.6% home run rate).

Is Greinke as bad as his ERA suggests (which still isn’t all that bad)? No. Is he as good as his peripherals? Eh, likely not. The answer is somewhere in the middle. When we’re talking about next season, I’d trust his peripherals more than his ERA, but for a start tonight…well, it’s at least worth considering that his home run and hittability issues this season could carry over for one more start.

Greinke throws five pitches: a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, slider, curveball, and changeup. He rarely throws his two-seam fastball and greatly prefers his four-seam fastball (45% usage to both hands), and his breaking ball use is slightly atypical. He uses his slider as one of his primary weapon against same-handed hitters (20% use, 40% whiffs), and he breaks it out almost solely in two-strike counts. He actually uses his curveball even more often than his slider (25% use, 30% whiffs), but he instead uses it .

Against left-handed hitters, Greinke uses his curveball, slider, and changeup all an equal amount (16%), and he sees the most success with his changeup and slider (30% whiffs). But again, his slider is his main put-away pitch, and he mainly uses his curveball and changeup early in the count.

Jaime Garcia (3.56 ERA, 3.44 SIERA)

Let me get this out of the way first: I really like Garcia. Before the series started, I wrote about how he could be one of the keys to the series…and well, we saw how that turned out in Game One. The gist of my argument was that Garcia’s handedness could help him neutralize the Brewers’ left-handed bats, and his changeup — one of his best pitches — is a pitch that Corey Hart and Ryan Braun normally have trouble with.

Obviously that didn’t work out; Garcia simply can’t throw changeups with every pitch, and the Brewers were able to smack him around. He did have success with his changeup, generating 7 swinging strikes with it (40%) — but his fastball velocity averaged under 90 MPH and the Brewers hammered them.

It’s tempting to say that Garcia is “tiring” down the stretch, as he’s struggled in his two postseason starts so far and his velocity was low-ish last time out. He has thrown over 200 innings this season, while he only threw 163 innings last season, so that could be a part of it. But at the same time, Garcia had one of his best months in September (2.64 ERA, 2.80 FIP), so I prefer to think that he’s simply had two bad starts against teams with good offenses.

If Garcia wants to do better this time around, he’ll need to do a better job of keeping the Brewers off-balance — think, mixing up how he attacks hitters. He didn’t use his curveball late in the count in Game One, using it mostly in 0-1 and 0-2 counts to make batters chase, so he might try throwing more of those late in the count and more changeups early.

Or really, who knows? Maybe he’ll go out there with the exact same plan and dominate the Brewers this time. Pitching is odd.

We hoped you liked reading NLCS Scouting: Greinke vs. Garcia by Steve Slowinski!

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Steve is the editor-in-chief of DRaysBay and the keeper of the FanGraphs Library. You can follow him on Twitter at @steveslow.

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Two straight NLCS articles? Blatant anti-AL bias! C’mon Fangraphs!