Zack Greinke was the star at Miller Park Saturday afternoon, navigating a vicious St. Louis lineup with ease as the Brewers earned their first victory of the young season by a 6-0 score. In seven innings, Greinke allowed just four hits, did not walk a batter, and struck out seven Cardinal hitters. The key for Greinke was excellent control of his offspeed offerings — the exact opposite of Yovani Gallardo’s disastrous opening day start.
Overall, Greinke threw just 91 pitches in seven innings. He faced just three three-ball counts and was generally able to get strikes with any of his five pitches (four-seam and two-seam fastballs, slider, changeup, and curveball). Particularly impressive was the control of his off-speed stuff.
Greinke threw 34 sliders, nine curveballs and five changeups according to the Pitch F/X data at Brooks Baseball. A whopping 32 (66.6%) of them went for strikes, better than his usual rate of 60%.
As the above plot shows, Greinke did an excellent job of keeping his pitches down in the zone. When he hit his spots, the pitches were nearly unhittable. On his rare misses, the ball was down out of the strike zone where hitters could do little with it (or waved at it for a swinging strike; he got four swinging strikes on his slider).
The result was arguably Greinke’s best start as a Brewer. At only 91 pitches, Greinke clearly could have gone another inning if need be, but with Milwaukee up by four there was little reason to push his pitch count up any higher than it needed to be. Especially given the high quality of the Cardinals’ lineup, this was a very good start to the season and the kind of performances we should come to expect from Zack Greinke if he is to return to the Cy Young discussion.