The Rays offense is generally considered to be a hindrance to the team — particularly if you listen to the Brewers TV broadcast — but, particularly given the lack of big-name talent and the early injury to Evan Longoria, they’ve been pretty respectable, posting a 96 wRC+, very near the big-league average of 100. A key for the Rays is their ability to play matchups against opposing starters. Against Zack Greinke on Tuesday night, the Rays loaded up their lineup with six left-handed batters. Only the star Longoria and the excellent defender B.J. Upton remained in the lineup among right-handers.
With Zack Greinke’s arsenal of pitches, including a changeup and a diving two-seam fastball, he’s well-suited to handling opposite-handed batters. He also worked quite tightly in the lower-outside corner of the plate, typically avoiding the lower-inside area which is the typical left-hander’s wheelhouse. Observe, Zack Greinke’s location plot against left-handers:
(Click to embiggen)
These plots are from the same point of view as you see when watching a game in Gameday; that is, this plot is from the catcher’s point of view, with the outside corner (for left-handed batters) on the left side of the image. By keeping the ball outside, Greinke managed to avoid the power zones of the Rays’ lefties. By keeping the ball down, he managed to induce a whopping 11 ground balls out of 16 balls in play.
His insistence on throwing outside is even more prevalent when we look at the first pitches of at-bats.
(Again, click to embiggen)
Only two pitches were on the inner half of the plate, and when Greinke missed, he made sure to miss well off the plate, where little damage could be done.
Of course, the plan to pound the lower-outer quadrant of the strikezone is typically the plan of most starting pitchers. To execute is quite another, and Greinke executed nearly flawlessly on Tuesday night. He placed the ball perfectly, earning strike calls on the outside corner, swings-and-misses all around the zone, and inducing weak contact when the batters actually managed to put bat to ball. Brewers fans may still be waiting for a complete-game shutout out of their new ace, but last night’s start shows just how good Zack Greinke is when everything is working.