Zack Greinke: Breaking Down the New Milwaukee Brewer's First Start of the Season

Bleacher ReportContributor IIIMay 5, 2011

ATLANTA, GA - MAY 04:  Zack Greinke #13 of the Milwaukee Brewers pitches in the first inning against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on May 4, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Zack Greinke made his much-anticipated debut for the Brewers during the second game of Wednesday's double-header against the Braves after missing the first month of the season with a broken rib.

Greinke, who took the loss, looked somewhat rusty against the Braves lineup, allowing five runs (four earned) on five hits, one home run, one walk and striking out six.

Opposing hitters only started off with a first-pitch strike in 11 out of 21 plate appearances against Greinke, but he did throw 66 percent of his pitches for strikes.

Command within the strike zone was an issue.

He left a two-seam fastball down the middle on Nate McLouth's two-run home run and David Ross' double in the fourth inning and hung a few sliders and curveballs. He was able to throw every one of his pitches in his repertoire for a strike at a 64 percent rate or higher.

Despite the rust, Brewers fans should be encouraged by the quality stuff he demonstrated in the earlier innings.

Greinke averaged 91.7 mph (max 94.4) on his fastball, but he was consistently throwing the pitch between 92-94 mph in the first and second innings. He averaged 93.5 mph on his fastball last season.  

Braves hitters swung and missed at a little over nine percent of Greinke's pitches, an improvement over last season's rate of 7.5 percent and more in line with his dominant 2009 (9.9 percent). All three of his off-speed pitches were able to induce a swinging strike and his curveball showed more vertical break than it averaged last season.

I wouldn't worry about Greinke's velocity. He clearly demonstrated good velocity through his first 40 pitches and he should build velocity as he builds up more arm strength.

Greinke should be back to his old self in no time, and if Yovanni Gallardo can fix his recent struggles, the Brewers rotation will keep the club in the thick of the race for the NL Central.