David J. Phillip/Associated Press
For a 30-year-old with an established track record of success, Zack Greinke is still a shocking anomaly at times. He has a Cy Young on his mantle, he finished fifth in the majors in ERA in 2013, and yet he has some subpar seasons on his resume: a 4.17 ERA in 2010, 3.83 in 2011 and a history of underperforming his FIP.
FIP, or Fielding-Independent Pitching, is a measure of a pitcher’s success based on his walk rate, strikeout rate and home run rate. The idea is that pitchers have basically no control over balls in play, so FIP endeavors to measure a pitcher’s true talent level. However, Greinke is one of a few pitchers whose career ERA has not regressed back to his FIP.
There are several theories about this, and the most prominent is that he struggles to pitch from the stretch. This is indeed backed up by some numbers: In 2010 and 2011, his left-on-base percentage was significantly worse than league average. However, that reversed itself in the past two years, so those may have been random variance.
Regardless of explanation, the idea persists, as evidenced here in an NESN article, that Greinke may not have the mental fortitude to be an elite pitcher. This is foolish, though.
Expect a big year from Greinke in 2014. He was excellent in 2013, and he will still be pitching in Dodger Stadium—a pitcher’s park, per ParkFactors.com. While he probably won’t be quite as elite as he was last season (his strikeouts did tick down), he is still one of baseball’s most talented pitchers and a deserving No. 2 in the Dodgers rotation.