Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke finished the first half of the season with a 1.39 ERA, the lowest mark for any pitcher with at least 15 starts since Bob Gibson (1.06), Luis Tiant (1.24) and Don Drysdale (1.37) all entered the All-Star break with better ERAs in 1968, per ESPN Stats & Info.
Named as the National League's starting pitcher for Tuesday's All-Star Game in Cincinnati, Greinke owns an 8-2 record, 0.84 WHIP and 106-20 strikeout-to-walk ratio through 123.1 innings (18 starts) to go along with his sterling ERA.
Although he hasn't quite matched the dominant strikeout numbers posted by some of baseball's other elite starters, the 31-year-old righty looks like the early favorite for National League Cy Young honors.
However, he could still face a challenge from Washington Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer, New York Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom and Pittsburgh Pirates pitchers Gerrit Cole and A.J. Burnett. Of course, it would never be wise to count out Dodgers teammate Clayton Kershaw, who enters the break with a 2.85 ERA that is modest by his own lofty standards.
Greinke's historic pre-break ERA would have been good for just fourth place in 1968, known widely in baseball history as "The Year of the Pitcher."
Gibson set a still-standing modern record with his 1.12 ERA that season, contributing to significant rule changes in 1969 that restored some hope to big league batters.
Most notably, the mound was lowered from 15 inches to 10 inches, and the vertical limit of the strike zone was reduced to only cover the area from the batter's armpits to the top of the knees.