A Simple Kind of Fan. My Two Cents on Greinke – 7.12.11
There is currently plenty of room on the Zach Greinke bandwagon. Folks have been jumping ship for weeks and have been quick to label him as a disappointment. For the record, I disagree entirely with this faction of fans. While not in 2009 form, I believe he has been roughly what Milwaukee desired when they made the trade in December. He takes the ball every fifth day, eats innings, and he doesn’t beat himself with walks. Let me be clear when I say that while he has been disappointing, there are not many players I am more bullish on in the second half than Zach Greinke. To be a top of the rotation starter, he must correct a few minor flaws in his approach that have been pestering him throughout the season. I would like to examine these flaws and make a few suggestions on how to correct them moving forward.
I truly believe Zach Greinke throws too many strikes. Before you chuckle and dismiss my comments as rubbish, let me explain. Greinke pounds the strike zone and limits his walks. In fact, he is averaging over 6 strikeouts per walk in 2011, which is by far a career high for the former Cy Young winner. It is my belief that because of his low walk numbers, hitters tend to settle in a bit more against Greinke than other pitchers. They know that if they can get the count to three balls that they will surely see a quality pitch to drive. I would like to see Greinke become more consistent in mixing in balls off the plate. He should do more to create doubt in the hitter’s mind as to whether a strike is coming. This creates hesitancy and makes line drives become lazy fly balls.
Greinke also doesn’t throw inside enough. When I say inside, I mean inside off the plate, to keep hitters from diving in to cover the outer half. He rarely knocks down opposing hitters. As a result, they tend to ‘keep their beak in’ against his off speed pitches low and away, as well as pitches on the inner half. There simply is no fear of getting hit as a batter because of his pinpoint control. I miss the Zach Greinke that used to go away for strike one, away for strike two, and then bust the hitter inside on the corner with a fastball for strike three. When you consider these factors, Greinke’s low walk numbers (1.94 BB/9) and high strikeout numbers (11.99 K/9) are a testament to how good his stuff truly is in 2011.
Besides throwing too many strikes and not throwing inside with enough frequency, Greinke also has another huge problem. Despite a 5.45 ERA, he rocks a 2.98 FIP. This means that he is getting extremely unlucky. In addition to getting unlucky, it is important to strongly emphasize how poorly the Milwaukee defense is performing. Greinke has been victimized numerous times this year by shoddy defense. We have all seen a hitter leak one between Yuni and McGehee (a play that 29 other defenses in baseball would have made) and promptly end up at second base because Milwaukee catchers throw out only 24% of would be baserunners. Undoubtedly, then an opposing hitter actually gets a legitimate single with two outs and a run is surrendered in an inning that should already be over! When considering his career high BABIP of .344, and a career low 58% LOB%, one can see that Greinke has had the odds stacked against him each time he climbs the bump.
Greinke’s poor defense also has one other factor to consider, the catcher position. Fortunately for Milwaukee, Zach doesn’t demand that he have a personal catcher, like some other crackpot starting pitcher we have. However, maybe he should. The catching position appears to be a point of contention with Greinke. He appears to have a hesitancy to throw breaking pitches in the dirt because of a lack of confidence in the catcher’s ability to stop the ball, in particular with runners on base. To have maximum effectiveness, he needs confidence that the catcher is going to block his off speed pitches and prevent the runners from advancing. Hanging pitches with runners on base has been a huge problem for Greinke and it may be because of a reluctance to spike his breaking pitches in the dirt.
I suppose pitching coach Rick Kranitz has been over these points with Greinke since he gets paid to notice these things. However, if you keep these minor points in mind for the next Greinke start, you will see that these are characteristics that can be corrected. I also think a change in the roster will help fix some of the problems on the left side of the infield. By throwing less strikes and using the inside part of the plate with more frequency, I feel Greinke has a chance to put together a much improved second half. When taking into account the terrible defense behind him, and in front of him, I feel that the high ERA Greinke will tally should be taken with some context due to the challenges I have discussed today. Tweaking his approach to opposing hitters even slightly can have a meaningful impact as the second half wears on.
There has been some positive feedback about the Yuni Watch. As you may recall, I started The Yuni watch back in early March assuming that Yuni would be terrible. I anticipated many people would start to keep track of his every move and criticize him roundly for his indifferent offensive approach and extremely subpar defense. Now that everyone is fully invested in Yuni, I thought we would expand it to a regular feature starting on Wednesdays. So check back on Wednesday to review the carnage that was Yuni Betancourt’s week in review.
Something You Might Have Missed
The All Star break is upon us and with over 80 (!) players involved in the Midsummer Classic, it has certainly lost a bit of its luster. I wrote back in early June about the portion of the schedule before the All Star break that started in Chicago on June 13th. I predicted that if the Brewers were within six games of the division lead by the All Star break, they would indeed win the NL Central.
Good News! The team is tied heading into the break with St Louis and I am extremely optimistic about prospects of a division title. After the brutal road trip that lies ahead, it is smooth sailing for a great deal of the second half. In fact, the Brewers will be matched up 25 times with the Astros, Cubs, and Pirates in the coming months. Despite playing some terrible baseball when facing these opponents thus far, the Brewers are still 9-6 vs. these three teams. Hence, I am going to go out on a ledge and predict that that Milwaukee wins 18 of these 25 games in the second half and will go on to win the NL Central Division. Book it.
A Season You Have Probably Forgotten About By Now
In my opinion, one thing about baseball that is charming is the way that statistics can be viewing differently depending on a myriad of factors. Things such as ballpark configuration, mound height, elevation, and historical era all weigh heavily on how fans perceive certain statistics. The Colorado Rockies of the 1990s are a terrific example of what a powerful offense at a high elevation, in an inflated offensive era, can do to certain statistics. Today we are going to take a closer look at one of these mitigating factors and examine how a crazy park configuration made a mockery out of certain Milwaukee farm team’s season nearly 40 years ago.
The 1974 Sacramento Solons of the Pacific Coast league (AAA) had a park that was a bit unusual. Charles C. Hughes Stadium was used primarily for football and track and field. Of course, money dictated that baseball attempt to be played there as well throughout its history. As a result, the stadium was awkward with only a 233 ft left field fence. Yes, the fence was a mere 143 feet past 3rd base, which made it a home run haven. There are some varying accounts of the length of this wall from home plate, but most sources seem to agree that 233 feet was the official measurement.
As you may expect, there were several players who had big years for the Salons in 1974. Being the new Milwaukee AAA affiliate, the 1974 roster had a few players with names you will recognize that accomplished some impressive offensive feats. The offense clubbed an amazing 305 home runs and was anchored by Gorman Thomas (51 HRs), Sixto Lezcano (34 HRs) and the improbable Bill McNulty (55 HRS). McNulty is interesting because 1974 was his second to last season as a journeyman AAA infielder and he came out of nowhere to put up 55 homers and 135 RBIs. For his career, the third baseman McNulty never hit more than 27 HRs or had more than 80 RBIs in any season. If this were the modern era, I could only imagine the lunacy being played out daily in the comments section of the Journal Sentinel Brewers home page.
As you can imagine, the pitching staff scuffled a bit for Sacramento that season. In fact, the staff gave up an equally staggering 301 homers and the lowest individual ERA on the team was a 4.48 mark. Former Brewers bullpen coach Bill Castro was on that 1974 team and was shelled for 21 HRs in 105 innings that year. It would seem reasonable to believe that the short porch in left was a main culprit of mental anguish for opposing pitchers all season. Having the home run devalued in such a manner made the other aspects of the game such as defense, base running, and pitch location even more critical to winning.
If there was any doubt that the 1974 Sacramento season was a rare feat for the ages, consider the following. Under the exact same ball park configurations, the Jerry Augustine led 1975 version hit and allowed exactly 196 homers all season. It was truly a remarkable season for the 1974 Sacramento Salons. Hopefully the next time someone discusses some sort of tremendous minor league accomplishment, your first response will be to determine the context in which these feats took place before heaping praise haphazardly. Finally and perhaps most alarming, I have recovered some bonus evidence of the players from Sacramento wearing shorts as a part of the uniform, like a softball bar league. I can’t prove it, but I’m positive Bud Selig had something to do with it.
Dates Appearing Closer on the Horizon
July 14, 2011. The tough portion of the schedule before the All Star break may be over, but the difficult tests continue for the Brewers. They head out West to play grueling back to back four game marathons in Colorado and Arizona before finishing up with an easy 3 game set against the World Champs, in their yard. Yikes.
July 26, 2011. The team returns home for a massive three series homestand against Chicago, Houston, and St Louis. There will be some ground to be made up after the road trip and I expect the team to be back in first place by the end of this particular stretch of games.
Shameless Self Promotion
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