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Sunday, June 1, 2014
Greinke dominant, but different from 2009

By Justin Havens


Zack Greinke has dominated opposing hitters over a long stretch.
Since the start of last season, few pitchers can match Zack Greinke in terms of production. Greinke is a stunning 17-3 with a 1.80 ERA over a stretch of 27 starts dating back to last season. Los Angeles is 30-9 in his 39 total starts since 2013.

Greinke, who will start for the Dodgers tonight against the Pittsburgh Pirates on "Sunday Night Baseball" (8 ET, ESPN), wins largely on the strength of getting hitters to swing at pitches out of the strike zone. His 36 percent chase rate this season ranks second in baseball to Masahiro Tanaka’s 39 percent.

What’s different about Greinke now compared to when he was younger? Let’s compare his 2009 Cy Young-winning campaign with what he has done since joining the Dodgers at the start of last season.

FASTBALL

Less velocity. Greinke’s fastball averaged 93.6 mph in 2009, with a maximum of 98.7. Since the start of last season, his average fastball velocity is 91.5, with a maximum of 95.8.

Throwing more strikes. Since the start of last season, 53 percent of Greinke’s fastballs have been in the strike zone, and he has recorded strikes with it at a 66 percent clip. In 2009, the fastball was in the strike zone 49 percent of the time, and he got strikes with it 63 percent of the time.

More swings and misses, fewer balls in play. In 2009, Greinke had a swing-and-miss rate of 13 percent with his fastball. That mark is 20 percent since 2013. Related, 44 percent of the swings at his fastball resulted in balls in play in 2009, and that mark is much lower now -- 35 percent.

Coming inside vs. lefties. Since the start of last season, 38 percent of Greinke’s fastballs to left-handed batters have been on the inner half. That’s a significant increase over how often he came in back in 2009, at 27 percent.

The end result of all this is that he gets misses on 21 percent of swings against his fastball, up from 13 percent in 2009.

CHANGEUP

Throwing it more. In 2009, 6 percent of Greinke’s pitches were changeups. Since the start of last season, 13 percent are changeups (16 percent if you limit it to just this season).

Specific to left-handed batters, he threw a changeup 10 percent of the time in 2009, and he is throwing it 22 percent of the time since the start of last season. With two strikes, he is throwing a changeup 12 percent of the time now, compared to just 2 percent of the time in 2009.

A much more effective pitch. In 2009, Greinke allowed a .386 opponents’ batting average off his changeup (17 hits in 44 at-bats ending in a changeup). Since the start of last season, batters are hitting a much more modest .228 off the pitch (33 hits in 145 at-bats ending in changeup).

Swinging and missing more. In 2009, hitters missed on 23 percent of their swings against Greinke’s changeup. Since the start of last season, his swing-and-miss rate is 32 percent. His chase rate is up too -- 43 percent since the start of last season, up from 24 percent in 2009.