Monday, March 14, 2005

Greinke Lucky?

Studes from the Hardball Times has put together an analysis of lucky and unlucky players from last year's season, and Zack Greinke features prominently in the analysis.

Ignoring the line drive vs. batting average of balls in play (BABIP) analysis for pitchers, which he essentially debunks after presenting it (?), the main analysis relies on an established method of analysis for pitching - fielding independent pitching (FIP), which attempts to measure a pitcher's true performance by separating fielding from pitching by accounting for the three things pitchers control - strikeouts, walks and home runs. Greinke's FIP (4.94) was nearly a full run higher than his ERA (3.97) in 2004, suggesting that he was lucky to achieve that ERA and that he's due for a decline this year (and if his spring training outings are any indication...)

The question is why. The formula is revealing insofar that it highlights Greinke's one problem from what was otherwise a very impressive performance for a 20 year old pitcher - a very high HR rate. His walks rates were fantastic, and his strikeout rates were respectable and improved throughout the year, so those don't concern me too much.

The big question is whether he will continue to give up such a high number of home runs this year and beyond, because its an important indicator for future success. His 2004 HR rate projects to 36 per 200 innings, which is extremely high. As with everything Greinke, I think he deserves the benefit of the doubt, given that he had one of the most successful campaigns for a 20-year old in the history of major league baseball. Plus, he was just 20. (Did I mention he's 20?) Some have suggested that his HR totals were inflated by the fact that he was under no pressure to win, so he was just testing himself on the mound at times and left himself prone to giving up solo home runs. That's hard to prove, but we'll see how it goes this season.

Anyway, there's nothing in his minor league history that would suggest Greinke is a perennial 30-35 HR pitcher. He's no Darrell May. I look for Greinke to yield between 22 to 27 HRs this season (assuming 200 IP), and settle into a 20-25 HR pitcher in his prime. He may have been somewhat lucky to achieve the ERA he did last year, but I think he'll demonstrate this season that all of the optimism surrounding the kid is warranted.


At 12:38 PM, Anonymous Sanford said...

That's a very interesting analysis, and I wouldn't be surprised if much of it holds true this season. I just hope Greinke does his part to prove it wrong.

Of course, I'd prefer to see Studes run these numbers from the 2003-2004 seasons, so we can see how accurate this method truly is. Would a similar analysis prior to the 2004 season (using 2003 stats) have yielded accurate results? That is what I would like to know, before I get worried.


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