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2017 Player Profiles: Zack Greinke

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There are reasons for optimism for the Diamondbacks ace in 2017

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Arizona Diamondbacks Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

If you want to catch up on all the 2017 player profiles, check out my archive here.

Zack Greinke had a year to forget in 2016. Adapting to his new home and giant contract in the desert did not go well. The statistical proof to back me up is in this convenient table.

ERA FIP xFIP WHIP K/9
4.37 4.12 3.98 1.27 7.6

Not good, at least for him. Here’s another table of some stats and where he finished compared to his other seasons. In other words, this shows how his 2016 stats compared to his 12 other seasons. For all stats, 1 is the largest number and 13 is the lowest in that stat, even if lower is better. So, for FIP, he had the 4th highest season of his career, also known as the 4th worst. For Hard%, he had the second highest of his career, and so on.

Stat Career Rank (1-13)
K% 9
K%-BB% 8
HR/FB% 2
ERA 2
FIP 4
xFIP 5
Hard% 2
Zone% 13
F-Strike% 1
O Swing % 1

As you can plainly see, he set career-worsts or close to it in many stats. Some of this was just bad luck, some was the hitter’s park he calls home now, and some was simply poor pitching. Greinke is known as a very intelligent, thoughtful pitcher that puts a lot of work into his arsenal. You can bet he won’t try all the things that didn’t work in 2016 again this year.

My point in all this is to say that there is optimism that he can be much better in 2017. Even with him being 33, I don’t expect him to continue to put career-worst numbers up like that again. He still has good stuff going for him. Let me count the ways:

  • He got hitters to chase at a career high rate
  • He got ahead of hitters with the first pitch like never before
  • His HR/FB rate was a bit unlucky and should come down
  • He had that great first strike % in spite of a career-worst rate of throwing in the zone. If he can throw more in the zone and keep his chase rate up, he should see a strong bounce back in K%.
  • His slider and change-up still had swinging strike rates well above average
  • He was in the top 60 (lowest) in exit velocity allowed on fly balls and line drives among pitchers with 190 balls in play or more. That certainly softens the high Hard% he had. He still had good contact management skills.

I think those are all good enough reasons to trust him more in 2017. I see a bounce back year coming. All of the projection systems show an increase in Ks and a decrease in walks to get him more in line with career averages. They also see a big drop in ERA and WHIP. Nothing but good news there.

Oh and I’m not worried about the oblique injury that forced him to miss over a month last year. He’s had plenty of time to heal and it’s not an arm injury, so I think we are good.

Here’s my projection:

2017 Projection

3.45 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 8.1 K/9, 2.1 BB/9

That should move him up in the pitcher rankings significantly from his #59 position among starters on ESPN’s player rater in 2016. I expect him to finish in the top 20. Tschus!