Dodgers’ Zack Greinke continues his stellar play

Updated: July 21, 2015
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Remember when everyone was panicking about Zack Greinke back in February? Greinke dominated the headlines after receiving an elbow injection as preventative measure to keep him healthy during the offseason. Although it was part of his planned conditioning, every Los Angeles Dodgers fan held their breath for the upcoming season as they continued to underestimate Greinke and the looming performance he was set to bring.

Taking an in-depth look at his season to this point, we find that Greinke currently sports a 1.30 ERA and a 0.82 WHIP across 131.1 innings. He’s made 19 starts this season, receiving a quality start in 18 of them. Greinke hasn’t pitched less than six innings in a single game all season, making him one of the most efficient pitchers in baseball, and has allowed two runs or less in 16 of his 19 starts. He’s having one of the most historic seasons in all of Major League Baseball history. But, let’s break it down even further.

He’s currently in the middle of a 43 and two-thirds scoreless innings streak, which is 15 and one-third innings off tying former Dodger great Orel Hershiser’s record of 59 consecutive innings pitched without allowing a run.

Here’s a fun fact: the record was previously held by former Dodger pitcher Don Drysdale in 1968, before Hershiser topped it in 1988. His current scoreless innings streak is also the longest since Hershiser’s historic run back in 1988. History is fun, isn’t it?

At Greinke’s current pace, he’ll need two more starts to surpass both Hershiser and Drysdale in the record books. His ERA is also shockingly close to passing Bob Gibson‘s modern-day benchmark of 1.12 set back in 1968. In fact, the only pitcher in the last 21 years to post an ERA of 1.56 or better for a full season was Greg Maddux back in 1994, where he recorded a 1.559 ERA over 202 innings with the Atlanta Braves.

Well, Greinke couldn’t possibly keep this type of dominance up, could he? It’d be nearly impossible to continue to throw zeros across the board, right? Both of these statements seem logical, but may appear inaccurate upon second glance.

Over the last two seasons, it’s been noted that Greinke is considered a “second-half player.” Meaning, he gets better in the second half. How terrifying is that? You’ve got a pitcher that’s noticeably dominated opposing lineups with ease, who happens to improve during the second half of the season?

In 2013, Greinke sported a 4.30 ERA on July 3. Over his final 16 starts, Greinke lowered his ERA from 4.30 to 2.63, stringing together one of the most impressive second halves I’ve ever seen. Along with everything else, his FIP currently sits at 2.52, meaning a certain level of luck is involved with his outings, but it isn’t something that would dramatically cause him to regress back to an ERA above 2.0.

What’s that? You’re thirsty for more? Well, let’s go even further.

Greinke not only leads all starters in earned-run average by a long shot, but also leads in winning percentage and hits per nine innings. He’s allowing 5.96 hits every nine innings of baseball, which is one of the scariest statistics out there. His home-run-to-fly-ball ratio has been cut in half from last season’s 11.9 percent mark, down to 6.1 percent.

And what’s even scarier might be the fact that his fly ball and ground ball ratios match the percentages from last season. One notable difference is his pitch selection, where he’s choosing to rely on his changeup 20.3 percent of the time and holding back on his curveball, which is being thrown at a lesser rate than the previous year. What does this all mean? Greinke might have fine-tuned his arsenal to continue this streak for the rest of the season.

Here’s a few other notable and fun facts to wet your whistle:

  • Clayton Kershaw has posted a 1.36 ERA since May 26, which is accountable for second best among the Dodgers’ starting rotation, to Greinke.
  • If Greinke manages to shut out the New York Mets on Friday, he’d be the first pitcher in the modern day era to keep his opponents scoreless over seven straight starts.
  • During his streak, opponents’ batting average on balls in play is a measly .181, which is well below the major league average of .294 — which leads us to believe a small bit of luck is involved, especially considering the Dodgers are about average in defensive runs saved. We’re assuming it has more to do with where the ball is being hit, as opposed to a stellar defense backing Greinke.
  • Through 19 regular-season starts, Greinke has only allowed 19 earned runs, five of which came off a start against the Colorado Rockies in Coors Field back on June 2.

Regardless of all the statistics and record talk, it’s always fun to embrace a scoreless-innings streak. Whether it’s a member of your favorite team, or a former member of your favorite team, you can’t help but be awe-stricken at the combination of perfect timing and pitching brought by this streak.

You’re looking at a player who has minimized his walk percentage to a minuscule 4.3 percent, while keeping every other important statistic at bay. And while some players have been more than fed up with a few of the strike calls Greinke’s received during his streak (i.e. Bryce Harper‘s comments a few days ago) it’s inarguable that he’s been masterful in his craft over that time.

The only question that remains: “Does Greinke have the ability to produce the amount of consistency and deception needed to continue his streak?” Only time will tell.

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