Sep 28, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Zack Greinke (21) and catcher A.J. Ellis (17) walk off the field after the first inning of the game against the Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Beating Zack GreenKey


Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, this is a day ahead of time, but hey – we did the Clayton Kershaw breakdown yesterday.  The Game 2 NLDS matchup between the Dodgers and Braves brings Zack Greinke to the mound.  Here’s a kid who grew up probably 10 miles from my own home NW of Orlando in ‘Big Potato’ (AKA, Apopka FL), and who I’ve wished the Braves would put onto their own staff.  Now we’ve got to beat him, and that’s frankly a tall order.

The Record

After recovering from an April 13 collarbone break, right-hander Zack came back strong:  15-4 record, 2.63 ERA.  He’s been better at home (2.11) than on the road (3.21) though been better late in the year (1.75 ERA in Sept; 1.85 2nd half).  Though he was the loser in his last start, it was a 1-0 loss to Colorado… hardly a bad outing at all.

He logged nearly 178 innings after coming back, pretty remarkable, given the injury, but then again he’s exceeded 200 innings 4 times in his career (he’s be 30 later this month), and certainly the injury this year was not your average ‘pitcher injury.’  He averages 2-1/3 walks per nine innings; 7-1/2 strikeouts.

Losses, Other Notable Outings

  • Colorado (9/28)… as mentioned above.  1-0  6 innings pitched/1 run/1 earned.  0 bb, 7K.
  • Cincinnati (7/25)… 7ip/4 runs/4 earned.  2 homers, 1bb, 4K.
  • @Pittsburgh (6/16)… 5ip/5 runs/5 earned.  1 homer, 2bb, 3k.
  • @Milwaukee (5/21)… 4ip/5 runs/5 earned.  3bb, 1k.
  • @Colorado (WIN, 7/3).  5ip/5/5.  1 homer, 7bb, 4k.
  • Philadelphia (WIN, 6/27).  7ip/4/4.  2 hr, 1bb, 5k.
  • @Colorado (No Decision, 6/1).  5.1 ip/4/4.  1 hr, 3bb, 3k.
  • Angels (ND, 5/27).  4ip/6/4 (10 hits).  1bb, 2k.

That list includes all outings with more than 2 runs allowed (7 of 28).

Most K per game:  9 (three times), 8 once, 7 seven times.  Most walks:  that outburst of 7 above.

Doubled walks on the road (30 vs. 16); 13 homers allowed (5 on road).

Lefties did a little better (.266 avg against on road (.361 OBP); .247 for RHH (.309)).

 

Pitch Types

Greinke has changed as a pitcher through his major league career.  Used to work fastball first… not so much now as he’s lost a tick or two in velocity (don’t take that as good news).  His Fourseamer will come out about 40% of the time, with roughly equal mixes of a Sinker, Cutter, Curve, and Change-up.  Just for fun, he also has a Slider, though it’s been hidden much of the year since June.  He had been throwing it a bunch in April and May (12-13%).  Not so much after that (2% or less).

The Fastball and Sinker sit anywhere from 91-94 mph, Cutter in the upper 80′s, Changeup also upper 80′s, Slider lower 80′s, and Curveball in the 70-75 range.  It is this change in velocities that has me concerned.  Any pitcher that can successfully throw off the timing of a hitter with both location and velocity is one that will give trouble to Atlanta hitters… or any hitters, for that matter.

 

The Charts

It’s pretty obvious what Greinke’s game plan is — down and away… first the Lefty-hitter chart:

GreinkeLHHChart

 

…and now the Righty hitter chart, which is even more pronounced.

GreinkeRHHChart

 

Now, these charts notwithstanding, the 2013-only version of Greinke’s pitches appear to be a little different.  Let me show you these fangraphs.com ‘Heat Maps’:

Zack2

With lefties, he’s about the same – with RHH, though, he’s using more of the vertical strike zone this year… and that’s going to make him more effective overall.  I do notice, however, that there’s very little for RHH’s to worry about on the inner half of the plate, so sitting on an outside pitch is probably a good idea.  Lefties need to be a bit more protective, especially up (that works against a guy like Freddie Freeman).

With Kershaw, it was definitely a count-driven thing… get him to 3 balls, and you’ve got a fighting chance.  With Greinke, it’s better with 2-0, 3-0, 3-1 counts (OPS against ranging from .800-1.400), so working a count is also important (3-1 especially).

Greinke is very consistent, regardless of the situation behind him:  nobody on?  OPS .656.  Any runners on?  .629.  He’s machine-like in that consistency… reminds me of a RH Tom Glavine… with more variety.  The part that’s hard to control, of course, is the pitcher himself.  If he’s “on”, he’s very, very good.  If he’s not, then you luck out and see a multi-walk, multi-run performance.  That’s happened only 25% of the time this year.

June 6th was one of those days.  Atlanta was in LA for their 4-game series.  Greinke won it 5-0, going 7 strong innings; 4 hits, 3 walks, 7 strikeouts scattered about.  It was his second No Runs Allowed outing of the year to that point, and came after 3 straight outings in which he’d surrendered 4+ runs.

 

The X-Factor

One thing I initially forgot to include in this report – as if the above wasn’t already enough…. Greinke can hit, too.  In fact, he generated 1.2 fWAR of production… in just 72 plate appearance.  That’s better than all but seven members of the Nationals; better than B.J. Upton, better than Dan Uggla.  For the year, he hit .328 (yes, a better average than everybody in the National League except Michael Cuddyer).  Greinke didn’t show a lot of power this year (he has 3 career homers), but he did hammer out a career-high 19 hits.  So yeah – on top of everything else he does to help the Dodgers win, his bat is tantamount to giving them a DH in the lineup.

 

The Lineup

Expect Jordan Schafer to start Friday night.  He is 5 for 11 vs. Greinke, with 2 doubles and a triple… just 1 K.  Justin Upton is also 5 for 11 against him with a homer and 2 doubles (4 K).  Chris Johnson, Jason Heyward, Andrelton Simmons, and Freddie Freeman have had trouble with him:  a combined 4 for 21.  B.J. Upton (4 for 23) and Gerald Laird (a respectable 6 for 20) have actually seen him the most (in the AL).  Brian McCann will still start behind the plate, I trust (1 for 3).  Elliot Johnson is 2 for 3 against him.

This will be difficult – it definitely concerns me as a Braves’ fanMike Minor will be facing the Dodgers that night, and we certainly hope he brings the ‘A’ game with him.  If so, then this one could belong to the bullpens… perhaps something like 1-1 into extra innings, even.  With that kind of game, anything can happen.  We’ll be lucky if we can get a W out of this one.

Heck, how about a B.J. Upton walk-off homer in the 11th?  I just hope it isn’t off Peter Moylan.

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