Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Zack Stat Pack: Start #6.

I’m reasonably certain that when I wake up tomorrow, I will discover that it’s actually April 7th, that the season has yet to begin, and that I just had this really vivid dream about Zack Greinke that I’ll be embarrassed to mention to anyone. Something about six straight wins to start the season, two shutouts, a franchise-record scoreless streak, an SI cover, a first-place team. I know: I have got to lay off the Mountain Dew right before bed.

But until that happens, I’m savoring the moment.

- Coco Crisp has been an igniter on offense and brilliant with the glove, but do you all realize that if Crisp had, say, Carlos Beltran’s arm, Greinke’s scoreless streak might be at 59 and counting? As brilliant reader Curtis pointed out, Crisp has figured into all three runs Greinke has given up in his last 59 innings:

1) The unearned run against Detroit came after Mike Aviles’ relay throw hit Gerald Laird in the back – but that throw would have beaten Laird to the bag if Crisp had hit Aviles with the cutoff throw sooner.

2)The first run against Toronto came when Vernon Wells singled in Marcos Scutaro from second with two outs, after Scutaro doubled. Scutaro reached second when he turned a routine single into a double by challenging Crisp’s noodle arm.

3) Scutaro scored again in the third, after drawing a walk and then going first-to-third on a single to center. Scutaro would have held at second against a centerfielder with a strong arm – and would not have scored on Alexis Rios’ GIDP.

Put a strong arm – not a howitzer, just someone who can throw the ball 200 feet on the fly – in center field, and Greinke is one inning away from breaking one of the most hallowed records in baseball. Saturday’s start in Anaheim, near one of the world’s media epicenters, would be a circus that would shame Barnum & Bailey. Maybe it’s better this way.

- Greinke threw a six-hit shutout tonight, and what’s ridiculous is that with a smidge of luck and a smidge better defense, he could have had a perfect game. Look at the six hits:

Hit #1: A groundball by Scott Podsednik that bounced off Alberto Callaspo’s glove into right field.

Hit #2: A.J. Pierzynski breaks his bat and fists a floater in no-man’s land in short center field, right between three fielders.

Hit #3: Scott Podsednik hits a fast grounder that appears to hit the lip of the infield grass, taking a funny hop that eats Billy Butler up, and Podsednik races to second with a double.

Hit #4: Pierzynski hits a line drive that bounces off of Mark Teahen’s glove for a single.

Hit #5: Alexei Ramirez golfs a pitch into short center field for a bloop single.

Hit #6: Jayson Nix hits a looping drive that lands a few inches inside the foul line (it might have grazed the chalk) for a double.

For the game, opposing hitters were 6-for-21, or .286, on balls in play against Greinke. For the season, his BABIP is also .286. The BABIP for the Royals as a team is virtually indistinguishable at .289. In other words, Greinke hasn’t been lucky this season. He comes by that 0.40 ERA honestly. Honestly.

Alright, so here’s a woefully incomplete list of all the records that Greinke is taking aim at:

- He’s the third Royal, after Bret Saberhagen in 1987 and Jose Lima in 2003, to win his first six decisions of the season. (Lima started 7-0.)

- Only Saberhagen had won his first six starts of the season. Saberhagen lost his seventh.

- Zack Greinke has thrown two complete-game shutouts. The rest of the American League has combined for…hold on, let me do the math…zero.

- Greinke has reached double digits in strikeouts three times this year. In franchise history, only three pitchers have ever whiffed 10 or more batters more than three times in a season: Kevin Appier (four times in 1995, five times in 1996), Bob Johnson (five times in 1970), and Dennis Leonard (six times in 1977).

- Greinke now has six double-digit strikeout games in his career, at age 25. Only five Royals have more: Leonard with seven; Tom Gordon, Mark Gubicza, and Bret Saberhagen with eight; and Appier, with 21. Greinke has a good shot at being second on this list by the end of the year. If not the end of the month.

- Greinke now has two starts this season with 10 strikeouts and no walks. No Royal in history has had two…in their career. Tom Gordon comes closest; he did so once on July 17th, 1989 – and also struck out ten without a walk on April 12th that year, only in a relief appearance that spanned 6.2 innings.

- Greinke has four starts in his career with 10 strikeouts and no walks. Every other pitcher to suit up for the Royals in their history has combined for four such starts: one by Gordon, one by Gubicza, one by Johnson, and one by Rich Gale.

Unfortunately, the otherwise-excellent Play Index at baseball-reference.com does not allow me to run queries like “lowest ERA for a pitcher six starts into a season” and “most opposing hitters brought to tears after an at-bat”. So this will have to do for now; if I find the time to raid the Baseball Prospectus database for more goodies, I’ll let you know.


Ryan said...

Yay, us!

Old Man Duggan said...

I checked every Pedro season from 1994 to 2001, and unless I'm mistaken, he never had a six game stretch in which he allowed a total of two earned runs.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone else remember this as a turning point in Zack's career (or at least as a sign that his career was finally turning around)?

Last season, May 13 versus the Tigers (at the K). Top of the 6th, 2 outs, tie game, bases loaded, and Ivan Rodriguez at the plate. Pudge was 10-23 career against Greinke at the time, but Zack blew him away on three straight fastballs. Pudge looked SO outmatched I thought at the time he was going to retire from baseball after the game. I mean Greinke just EMASCULATED him.

Greinke hadn't had his best stuff the entire game (hence the bases-loaded jam), but man he dialed it up when he needed to. And unlike the quick-pitch he got Pudge on early in his career, it really looked like Zack KNEW Pudge couldn't hit his best fastball (probably because McClure had just walked out to the mound and *told* him he couldn't). Not coincidentally, that was the last time Zack faced Pudge that season, despite two or three more starts against Detroit later that year.

Anonymous said...

Oh, you'll love this. Back almost a week ago, I saw this coming and did some stat checking.

As of right now, Greinke has this stat line 30 days into the season:

6-0, 0.40 ERA, 54 K's in 45 IP.

Here's the only other times a Royal won 6 games in the first 30 days of a season....

Appier was 6-1, 1.92 ERA, and 58 K's in 56 1/3. Appier ended '95 at 15-10 over 31 total starts...so he was only 9-9 with a poor 4.66 ERA after his hot start.

Saberhagen started off 6-0, 1.59 ERA, in 1987's first month...but then goes 12-10 with a 3.80 ERA for the rest of the year.

Splittorff had a great start in 1973's first month...5-1, 2.72 ERA... but he also dives into a 4.33 ERA & 15-10 to finish out the year (20-11 & 3.98 combined). Not really good numbers in '73....only a 102 ERA+ for the season after such a great start.

There's nothing else to compare Greinke's start to, in Royals history. But if history holds any weight here, it says Greinke will become about a .500 pitcher and his ERA will balloon after about his 7th or 8th start.

I'm hopin' history has as much effect on Zack Greinke as the Tigers offense. (he's actually 9-4 with a 2.86 ERA lifetime against them, not to mention his embarrassing them back on Apr 24)

He could be the 1st Royal to win 25 games...and if he does that, there'll probably be a lot of talk about him heading for 30.

Either way, as of now, he's already 1/3 of the way to one of the 12 best Royals pitchers win totals in the 23 years since after the '85 World Series.

And here's a listing of the 10 winningest Royals pitchers from 1986 - 5/04/2009 (which is everyone with more than 39 wins in that span). Greinke's already 9th in that list, and he could end the season 5th on this list.

One more thought. He's the 5th winningest Royal pitcher through seasonal age 25....Saberhagan (92), Gubicza (69), Appier & Busby (59), Gordon (56), Greinke (40 and counting).

Anonymous said...

PS. A couple days ago, Greinke's ERA+ was 934. I can't wait to see what it is recalculated as on Tuesday.

Royalpug said...

To save you some trouble Rany:
Top 3 pitchers to win first 6 games with lowest ERA:

1981 Fernando Valenzuela 0.33
1913 Walter Johnson 0.35
2009 Zack Greinke 0.40

Some other notables:

2009 Zack Greinke 0.40
2008 Cliff Lee 0.81 (won CY Award)
2000 Randy Johnson 0.93 (won CY Award)
1997 Pedro Martinez 0.79 (won CY Award)
1991 Roger Clemens 0.73 (won CY Award)

Zack's is probably the most impressive because he obviously pitched in a much more offensively prolific area.

Nathan said...

While better defense could have saved any of tonight's hits, there were also a few hard hit balls that went for outs. Paul Konerko hit two fly balls to deep center that would've been trouble to any other part of the field, and the hard grounder Callaspo dove for in the 9th could easily have been a hit.

Zack was great! But no-hitters almost always take some luck. The way he's pitching, it's only a matter of time.

joel said...

I don't think you can say that Greinke's 0.40 ERA is honest. Sure his BABIP is .286. However, given a .286 average and Zack's peripherals, a pitcher is expected to give up more than 2 earned runs in 45 innings. To date, Greinke is stranding runners at over a 90% clip. That is luck.

In other words, with men on base, Greinke is getting more outs than expected.

Matt Berger said...

its too bad our defense is so bad, that alone might be what prevents Zack from throwing a no-no. I dont know about all of you, but I have to keep myself from expecting too much from Zack, I find myself wanting him to be perfect, which isn't fair.

Matty said...

I know the AP and Posnanski have both reported that this was his 2nd shutout in his last four starts, but it's his 3rd shutout in his last four starts. All with 10 strikeouts in each game.

Unknown said...

That third shutout you talk about is the one against the Tigers where he gave up one unearned run. That takes the shutout away and keeps it at two. JoPo is right.

Anonymous said...


It's not clear cut that a pitcher's performance with RISP will regress toward his bases-empty performance. Indeed, Zack has pretty obviously been changing tactics when he has gotten into jams--pitching more for strikeouts and away from contact. I'm not sure it makes sense to attribute a difference between his overall BAA and his BAA with RISP purely to "luck".

Curtis said...

Yeah, I don't know if you could call it luck, but at the same time, his performance with runnners on base has to come back down to earth.

I mean, consider after Blalock's triple. The next guy hits a sharp ground ball to Teahen at third, which held the runner. We had the defense back, so a ground ball anywhere else on the diamond except back to Zack scores a run there.

Or last night, when there are two on and no outs in the eighth, he got a decently hit ground ball right at Aviles for the double play. Move that ball ten to fifteen feet in either direction at it may be a hit and certainly isn't a double play.

Those are the kind of things that he has been fortunate about so far. If just a couple of plays like that go the other way, he could have an ERA over 1.

Shelby said...

Did anybody see John Kruk Sunday evening on Sportcenter? He was talking about the Blue Jays vs. the Orioles, and how they were swinging at the first pitch of many at-bats. He loved it.

Get this: he said "I don't understand these theories of 'you need to take a walk'....unless you have speed, why walk?"

I couldn't believe my f**king ears. It was worse than Mitch Williams (on MLB Network) saying that he thought the Royals would finish above .500 but would also finish in last place.

Anonymous said...

my favorite Zack memory (so far) was a broken bat he got on a check swing last year, where his fastball, riding in on a RH hitter, nearly knocked the poor guy off his feet while also breaking his bat in two. can't remember who it was (maybe white sox? konerko?), but it was awesome.

kcghost said...

I was at the game last night and greinke just dominated the Sox. The new park is gorgeous!

Ryan said...

with all due respect to the other royals pitchers in the past, i think greinke has better stuff than all of them.

He reminds me of a young Dwight Gooden. Not that I have any stats to back that up, but just how he was dominate, and as a baseball fan you just wanted to see him pitch.

Steve-o said...

Now I know why he wants Olivo as his personal catcher - so he can buzz the inside of the plate all he wants and if anyone has a problem with it, they'll have to go through Olivo first.

Anonymous said...

Open question: Does the return of Alex Gordon hurt our already-limited production?

Anonymous said...

Gordon's return should help our offense, not hurt it. However, it will be interesting to see what effect his return will have on the lineup.

All these people writing and claiming that Greinke is "lucky" remind me of what people used to say about Sandy Koufax. "He's the luckiest pitcher in baseball. Whenever he pitches, the other team doesn't score."

Anonymous said...

Ooh, an ERA over 1!! I guess that means he would suck? :)

I'm not going to over analyze why Greinke has been so dominant, I'm just going to enjoy it while it lasts! Which will hopefully be another 10 years at least!

Curtis said...

Right. I think of Gordon right now as being a trading deadline acquisition if we can hang in there until then. So DMGM can spend his time looking for different pieces.

Anonymous said...

I know this is way too early, but if the Royals are in position to acquire someone at the trading deadline, should it be pitching or hitting? Is there any statistical evidence that shows acquiring pitchers vs. hitters is more successful?

Nathan said...

@anonymous, 1:14pm,

I think you have to pursue the player with the most marginal value over whoever he replaces. Ben Sheets would look great in a Royals uniform. A rotation of Greinke, Meche, Sheets, Davies, Bannister/Hochevar (whichever proves they deserve it) might be the best in baseball. Even though our pitching is much better than our hitting as a whole, I think it'll be harder to get marginal value by acquiring a hitter, because while none of our hitters are superstars, none of them are really that bad, either. So for this team I would go after one more starting pitcher.

Clint said...

In response to Devon - Greinke's ERA+ after his first 6 starts sits at 1,173. Wow. Http://royalreportcard.blogspot.com

Clint said...

I guess I'll include the top 5 in the AL acutally:

Greinke - 1,173
Dallas Braden - 212
Erik Bedard - 178
Scott Richmond - 176
Tim Wakefield - 174


Anonymous said...

Hey, Rany...

Everyone's still focusing on our "bad offense," but check this: since those opening five games of the season where they only scored 8 runs, the good guys are scoring 5.43 runs a game. That, over 162 games, would be 879 runs.

Obviously, 21 games isn't much of a sample, and certain folks are going to gently float back to earth (or crash like lead balloons), but... keep in mind we've been scoring those 5.43 runs per game with a handful of guys not producing at all (Olivo, Aviles, DeJesus).

This offense may not be as bad as advertised, and its presence in the lower half of the offensive categories may just be the remnants of a horrible start.

Anonymous said...

Only 2 pitchers in history have won their first 6 starts with an ERA .40 or less. They are Walter Johnson and some Fernando guy from 1980. Just saw this on PTI

Curtis said...

Broom, baby, broom!!

Add this one to the list of games we never would have won in the last five years. That makes three - in four days!!

Antonio. said...

I'm sorry but I'm lost...why is the Mitch Williams thing so bad?

The division is going to be close. Can a team not go 82-80 but in finish in last place and about 3 games out? Is that so impossible?

It would be nice for him to offer more insight and maybe that's what I'm missing out on.

Antonio. said...

"Now I know why he wants Olivo as his personal catcher - so he can buzz the inside of the plate all he wants and if anyone has a problem with it, they'll have to go through Olivo first."

Could Olivo run fast enough to protect them? What is it's like Scott Podsednik? Okay, bad example since Zack would Sweeney his butt...but you get the point.

Anonymous said...

WOW, just wow. This team has a different attitude...they don't give up. I hate to admit it, but I had serious doubts (multiple times throughout the game) that the Royals would win this one. Fans attitudes will slowly shift too if they keep this up. And ELEVEN WALKS?!! Holy Smokes!!

-KC fan in Beantown

Not Guy Fieri said...

As usual, your latest subtitle for the blog was a home run. They are consistently as outstanding as your posts.

Anonymous said...

Walks baby, walks!

kabrink said...

I love how great Greinke is pitching - he is really fun to watch. I know Rany is not intending to "blame" the players for Greinke not doing even better. It would be nice for him to get some of those individual accomplishments.

But, if we are to "blame" the team for anything, I wish they would provide some better run support to Meche. I realize at lot of that is just the way luck falls, and also, theoretically, Meche is pitching against other #1s. But, if the team could be more consistent in run production across the rotation the team results would be even better. (especially Ponson!)

Concentrate on that rather than bolstering Greinke's individual results.

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