Much has been made about the offensive performance of Madison Bumgarner this season. Clearly, he is one pitcher not swinging a wet newspaper. With his five home runs, Bumgarner will claim his second Silver Slugger award (how many of you knew they gave those out to pitchers?) and continue fueling the debate surrounding whether or not pitchers should be allowed to bat.
While Bumgarner’s been getting all of the attention for his home run blasts, there’s another pitcher in the state of California doing something impressive with the lumber. Zack Greinke is having himself a fairly good offensive season. The Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander has put up a .218/.228/.345 line with two home runs and has given us moments like this:
This doesn’t have anything to do with this post (and the video is two years old), but Zack Grienke is awesome.
Greinke hasn’t actually been that spectacular with the bat this year. His batting average is nothing special when compared to the average National League pitcher. What’s more impressive about Greinke is the combination of what he’s done on the mound and with the stick since joining the Dodgers three years ago.
Greinke is having one of the all-time great seasons this year. His ERA could dip below 1.50 by the end of the year, and opponents are batting just .189 against him. Over 559.1 innings with the Dodgers, Greinke has allowed a .216 batting average against. In the same time span, he’s batted .249. Right-handed hitters this year are batting just .179 against Greinke. As a right-handed hitter, Zack Greinke is 30 points better than the batters he’s faced this season.
Think about that for a second.
Over the past three seasons and nearly 600 innings, Zack Greinke has gotten hits at a better clip than he’s given them up. Clayton Kershaw hasn’t done that (his .208 BAA with the Dodgers is rather impressive though). Madison Bumgarner hasn’t either, as he’s actually batted just .213 overall the past three years. Adam Wainwright, a good enough hitting pitcher in his own right also lags behind Greinke in this regard. Other solid-hitting pitchers like Jason Marquis, Jeff Suppan, Dan Haren, and Mike Leake have not matched Greinke. Most pitchers eventually see their batting average regress back to the .200 level. Only the best can hold opposing batters down to that level of ineptitude. Even Dodger legend Sandy Koufax couldn’t do it, but he was a wet newspaper swinger with a .097 career batting average.
What’s even more impressive about Greinke’s hitting performance is that he spent the first seven years of his career in the American League getting less than 10 at-bats a season and spent only one full season with the Milwaukee Brewers before going back to the American League. There is probably more than a little truth to the belief that Greinke could have switched from professional baseball to professional golf when he briefly considered leaving the Kansas City Royals. With the type of hand-eye coordination Greinke must possess, it’s probably not a stretch to say that he could be at least a replacement level hitter if given a few seasons to focus on batting. Greinke is uber-focused and ultra-competitive, and approaches his at-bats like they really count, unlike the many pitchers to which a plate appearance seems like a slight annoyance. He wants to hit, and it shows.
Zack Greinke will probably win his second Cy Young, lead the world in ERA (as well as FIP and BAbip deniers), and possibly lift the Dodgers to the World Series. That’s quite the resume, but it’s not the most impressive thing he’s done, in my opinion. For a pitcher to post a higher batting average than average against over three seasons is unheard of, but Greinke’s done it. Sure, there may have been a little luck involved in Greinke’s hit prevention, but he’s performing on the mound and in the box in a way that has rarely been seen since the introduction of the designated hitter.
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