Alright, I’ll be the first one to admit that I was wrong about Zack Greinke. At the very beginning of Standing Room Only, I wrote an article saying that not only were the Diamondbacks a bust, but that Zack Greinke would never return to ace form in his career. Well, I was clearly wrong. Let’s look at the bounce-back year for the DBacks right-hander.
Lets look at the numbers so far. Greinke is 8-3 with an ERA of 3.00 and 104 strikeouts in 14 starts covering 90 innings. Now, I know that isn’t a huge sample size, and we aren’t even at the halfway mark in the season, but compare that to last season and it is a night-and-day difference. Last season, Greinke had an uncharacteristically high ERA of 4.37 and only threw 158.2 innings due to a shoulder injury. He also only had 134 strikeouts despite a 13-7 record. While he will never repeat his dominant 2015 season with the Dodgers, he could turn in a sub-3.00 ERA and is on pace to throw 200 innings should he stay healthy.
The talk all spring was about his velocity being down. With Greinke being on the wrong side of 30 and his velocity not being up to his standards, many wondered if this was the beginning of the end for the former Cy Young Award winner. With all of the success Greinke has had this season, all the talk of his decreased velocity has disappeared. He is, however, averaging a career low in fastball velocity (90.4 mph according to Fangraphs). Those velocity numbers have not impacted his numbers; this season his strikeout percentage is 29.6%, the best of his career. When looking at his numbers, the bulk of the hits off of Greinke were off of sliders in the zone and hitters not chasing out of the zone. He was also not mixing his pitches well. This season, his fastball rate is down to a career-low at 47.3% and his slider usage is at a career-high at 26.7%. With better slider location and a different pitch mix, Greinke has been able to get himself back on track.
Greinke is still pitching in the very hitter-friendly Chase Field, but he has helped propel the Diamondbacks to a 44-26 start despite a weak farm system and a new leadership group in the front office. It is looking more and more likely that the playoffs will feature three teams from the NL West with two of those teams facing each other in the Wildcard Game. While it is a nice surprise that the Diamondbacks are in the playoff mix, none of it would have been possible if it weren’t for a major bounce-back campaign for Zack Greinke.
So, here I am in June eating my words about Zack Greinke. I never thought in my wildest dreams that he would return to form or settle in at Chase Field. Can he stay healthy? Can he continue his success? If he can do that, then I will truly be wrong about Zack Greinke.