Don’t look now, but if Zack Greinke puts together a quality start in his next outing, his ERA for the season will fall below 5.00.
Zack Greinke has been the poster boy for peripheral pitching statistics this season, posting a 12.0 K/9, a 2.0 BB/9, a 2.86 FIP, and a 2.13 xFIP in his first 80 innings as a Milwaukee Brewer, all at or near the top of the league. But, for some reason, Greinke just couldn’t shut teams down for a full game, stumbling through a big inning or giving up the big home run at the most inopportune time.
Over his last two starts, though Greinke has recorded a 1.50 ERA in 12 innings, and he hasn’t stopped with the fantastic peripherals either, striking out 18 batters against only four walks and one home run. His ERA has dropped from from 5.66 to 5.04 over those two starts, and to top it all off, they’ve come against two very good offensive teams in Cincinnati and Colorado (at Coors Field, even).
Of course, nothing with Zack Greinke has come easy in 2011, and his past two starts are no exception. Sure, he’s only allowed three earned runs in those 12 innings, but naturally he’s also allowed five unearned runs. The Brewers defense has been as advertised this season (i.e. bad), but this wasn’t typical bad defense, failing to range on plays most teams would make. Against the Reds, Mat Gamel (who shouldn’t have been at third base in the first place) let a ball hop right over his glove, allowing two runs to score. Against the Rockies, Jonathan Lucroy failed to secure an easy out at first base on a dropped third strike which would’ve ended the inning. Three runs scored in the inning.
This isn’t a case of Zack Greinke doing anything wrong, even if we extend the list of controllable pitcher outcomes well beyond the scope of defense-independent pitching. This is Zack Greinke doing everything right that could possibly be attributed to him. And since the Brewers are winning with him on the mound (they won both of these starts and have won 10 of his 14 starts overall), it really doesn’t matter that Greinke suffered these rough strokes of luck.
Hopefully the last two starts indicate a trend, and Zack Greinke’s ERA keeps on plummeting towards its rightful mark in the low-3.00s or even 2.00s, and hopefully the over-arching results — wins, earned runs, overall runs, and anything else you can think of — will reflect that as well.