Zack Greinke Can’t Catch a Break

The Milwaukee Brewers’ acquisition of Zack Greinke was arguably the biggest move of the offseason. With Greinke and Yovani Gallardo at the top of the Brewers’ rotation — and Shaun Marcum slotting in at number three — the Brewers looked like legitimate World Series contenders. Unfortunately, Greinke’s time as a Brewer has been tarnished by extremely poor luck. First, a rib injury — which he suffered playing basketball — sidelined Greinke’s Brewers’ debut until May. Since then, his performance on the field hasn’t matched up to the hype. Through eleven starts this season, Greinke carries a 5.63 ERA. A look at Greinke’s peripherals, however, reveals a pitcher experiencing one of the best seasons of his career.

After Greinke’s debut as a Brewer, Eric Seidman explained that “Brewers fans shouldn’t be overly concerned about Zack Greinke‘s shaky debut on Wednesday.” Well, ten starts have passed and that message still applies. No player has been affected by bad luck more than Zack Greinke this season. Despite posting some of the strongest peripherals of his career, Greinke’s ERA is unsightly.

A move to the NL has benefitted Greinke greatly. He’s currently posting a ridiculous 11.55 strikeout rate with just a 1.73 walk rate. Among all pitchers who have thrown at at least 60 innings this season, Greinke’s current strikeout rate leads all of baseball. The heightened K-rate doesn’t appear to be a fluke either, as Greinke’s SwStr% has jumped to astronomical levels this season. Pitchers with stats this good should be well on their way to an All-Star appearance, yet bad luck continues to plague Greinke. Among all pitchers who have thrown at least 60 innings, the gap between Greinke’s ERA (5.63) and FIP (2.72) is the largest in the league. So, what’s preventing Greinke from showing his true dominance?

As usual, a poor BABIP is part of the culprit. Greinke’s current BABIP is much higher than his career rate and should eventually regress as the season progresses. Though there may be some reason for concern since Greinke is giving up more line drives this season, which would lead to a higher BABIP. He’s also experienced some struggles with the home run, as his HR/FB — which has been in the single digits for four straight season — has jumped to 13.8% this season. Finally, Greinke’s LOB% has dropped to a completely unsustainable level. Only 55.2% of the batters Greinke puts on base are being stranded. The league average for LOB% is typically 70% (Greinke’s career average is 71.7%), so we have to expect Greinke to improve there as well.

Step off the ledge, Brewers fans; everything is going to be alright. Though it doesn’t show on the surface, Zack Greinke is experiencing one of the best seasons of his career. All of Greinke’s peripherals show a pitcher throwing at an All-Star level. If not for a ton of bad luck, it’s not unreasonable to look at Greinke’s numbers and see a potential Cy Young candidate. That’s not the case, however. Greinke’s luck may have held him back thus far, but his underlying performance still indicates that he’s one the best pitchers in all of baseball. Don’t change your perception of Greinke after only eleven starts, he’s still the ace Brewers’ fans expected.

Chris is a blogger for He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.

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Jamal G.
Jamal G.

Any idea what’s the cause for that LD%, though? It’s amazing that he’s able to give up liners at such a rate, yet maintain a tRA even 5% above the NL average.