While Greinke’s ERA does not look pretty at 5.23, his advanced statistics look far better. He is on pace for career bests in strikeouts per nine innings (11.8) and walks per nine innings (1.52).
The last two pitchers with those kinds of strikeout ratios were Kerry Wood in 2003 and Randy Johnson in 2001. That is definitely some good company.
So if his numbers are so great, why is Greinke’s ERA inflated?
That’s the million dollar question. When hitters have made contact with Greinke’s pitches, they are crushing them. Greinke is giving up more line drives and home runs this year than in preceding years in his career. This is due to a variety of factors.
Greinke does not walk many batters which means he pounds the strike zone. This is generally a good thing, but not when you are falling behind in counts.
Greinke has not thrown as many strikes this year and when behind in the count, he throws his fastball. His fastball velocity, however, has averaged just over 92 mph this year compared to over 93 mph last year and 94 mph in his Cy Young season.
Additionally, his changeup speed has increased over the past three years. In 2009, he had an 11 mph difference between the two pitches which is considered very good as hitters will be fooled with the same arm action and spin on the ball. This year, the difference in speed is a mere 6 mph, causing more balls to be put in play or at least fouled off.
With all of this information, why will Greinke have a better second half?
Greinke is only 53 innings into the season after being out with a rib injury. If he is completely healthy and has no mental hang-ups, his velocity should increase in due time. Even if it does not, his ERA should come back to slightly above 4.00. By now, the Brewers have to know he pitches better with Lucroy behind the plate as well.