Thursday, May 26, 2011

You Can't Control Baseball

If there is one thing that has been pretty indicative of the first seven weeks of the Brewers season, it's been that there are simply some things out of the control of those involved with the game. Batters can hit the ball right on the screws and not find holes. Or, in Zack Greinke's case, pitches can make all the correct pitches and still end up with no so dominant results.

Obviously the Brewers weren't expecting Greinke to come in and have an ERA of 5.79 through his first five starts of the season. Surely, those are disappointing numbers for the former Cy Young award winner. However, how Greinke has gotten that ERA is much more important than the number itself.

Taking one glance at Greinke's numbers, it's pretty tough to understand why they are where they are. He has struck out 39 batters in just 28 innings. That's not the problem. Maybe he is walking batters. Well, again that can't be it as he has allowed just three free passes all season. If you really want to understand why Greinke has 'struggled' this season, one has to take into account things the pitcher just can't control.

Greinke has cruised through inning after inning this season, only to see one inning come back and bite him. Generally, the damage has come through the home run ball. Greinke's HR/FB ratio is currently at an astounding 17.9%, or 11.2% higher than his career average. Batters have also found hits with 34.8% of the balls put in play against him this season. Again, that is 4% higher than his career norm.

Obviously, those are numbers that will come back to earth and are contributing to Greinke's woes this season, but are not the most telling stat. Even though so few batters have been able to make contact against Greinke, and even fewer have reached base, those who have, have been scoring. In fact, 48% of the baserunners Greinke has allowed this season have come around to score. That's one of the most ridiculous statistics I have ever heard. For reference, in Jeff Suppan's worst season as a Brewer, just 29% of his runners were scoring. In fact, that number has little to do with talent and much more to do with luck. Simply put Zack Greinke has pitched incredibly this season. Take that in two ways: incredible and incredibly unlucky. If he continues this incredible pace he is on, his ERA is going to end of much closer to his current xFIP of 1.58 than his current ERA.

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