Originally written on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 11/17/14
To a certain extent, it seems like almost the entire market is waiting on free-agent starter Zack Greinke to make a decision. Greinke seems to be choosing between the Dodgers and the Rangers. If Greinke goes to LA, Texas might turn its attention to Josh Hamilton. If Greinke goes to Texas, Hamilton will end up elsewhere. As Greinke makes his decision, Hamilton makes his decision, and then things become clearer for Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher, Justin Upton, and so on and so forth. Greinke needs to choose an employer before the rest of the big-ticket acquisitions can identify their own. As we’ve talked about, Greinke’s the available free-agent ace, so long as your definition of “ace” isn’t “Justin Verlander or above”. He’s going to get paid accordingly by someone, with a shot at beating the CC Sabathia contract. Being that Greinke is exceptionally talented and still not very old, the appeal is obvious. He’s ready to help in the regular season and he’s ready to help in the playoffs. There is a thing about Greinke, though, that’s worth exploring in greater depth than we have. I guess there are several things about Greinke that are worth exploring in greater depth than we have. Here, we’re going to focus on Greinke’s catchers. In writing about Greinke and Anibal Sanchez the other day, I mentioned that Greinke has spent a lot of time throwing to Jonathan Lucroy. Pitch-framing research has identified Lucroy as one of the very best in the business. Early indications are that Martin Maldonado is also quite good, and he caught 11 of Greinke’s games in 2012. Greinke was a Brewer for a year and a half, and over that year and a half, he threw to some spectacular pitch-framers. Over the rest of his career, he has not. If you believe that the pitch-framing research is onto something, then this is definitely something to explore. If catchers can have an effect on called balls and called strikes, then it stands to reason one should try to isolate pitchers from this effect, at least toward the extremes. In a way we’re going to try to isolate Zack Greinke. We’re going to look at Greinke’s called balls and called strikes between 2008-2012, during the reliable PITCHf/x Era. We’re going to use simple data that’s entirely available here at FanGraphs. We can see how many strikes Zack Greinke generated. We can also calculate how many strikes one should have “expected”. You expect all zone pitches and all out-of-zone swings to go for strikes. By comparing this “expected strikes” total to the actual strikes total, you can learn, and with Greinke, we see some remarkable data. I’ll try to lay this out as best I can: Season Team Strikes ExpStrike Diff/1000 LgDiff/1000 vs. League 2008 Royals 2057 2112 -31 -21 -10 2009 Royals 2206 2219 -7 -26 19 2010 Royals 2159 2187 -15 -23 9 2011 Brewers 1812 1760 33 -17 50 2012 Brewers 1227 1169 52 -9 61 2012 Angels 883 886 -4 -9 5 Diff/1000 refers to the difference between strikes and expected strikes per 1000 called pitches. LgDiff/1000 refers to the league-average difference between strikes and expected strikes per 1000 called pitches. Vs. League refers to the difference between Zack Greinke and the league average. Greinke has averaged just over 1800 called pitches a year over the last five years. With the Royals and with the Angels, we see Greinke in the neighborhood of league-average. With the Brewers, he’s way way above. As a Brewer, the difference between Greinke and the league average was 54 strikes per 1000 called pitches, by this analysis. As a non-Brewer, since 2008, the difference between Greinke and the league average was five strikes per 1000 called pitches, by this analysis. That seems fairly substantial, and this demonstrates that Greinke doesn’t have some special ability to get strikes called on should-be balls. That happened for him in Milwaukee, but because it didn’t happen for him elsewhere, it suggests it wasn’t so much about Greinke, and was more about someone or someones else. Unsurprisingly, Greinke spends a lot of his time working the edges. Here’s Greinke throwing to right-handed batters over the last two years, via Texas Leaguers: And Greinke against left-handed batters over the same span: Greinke spends so much of his time in the low-away quadrant, and that’s where a catcher can really make a difference. The more a pitcher hovers around the borders, the more the pitcher needs to depend on other people. Lucroy and Maldonado helped Greinke get some calls he might not have otherwise deserved. Greinke’s other catchers over the years haven’t done him quite so many favors. This shouldn’t be interpreted as asserting that Zack Greinke isn’t actually all that good. Greinke was amazing in 2009, with Miguel Olivo behind the plate. Greinke was effective with the Angels, and his strong numbers with the Brewers weren’t due entirely to the backstops. It’s also possible this analysis has a fatal flaw and doesn’t actually mean anything. Maybe Greinke earned those extra strikes. Maybe Greinke has improved his command, and is more often given the benefit of the doubt. Regardless of the catchers, Zack Greinke is a good bet to be the best starting pitcher available. But this sure seems like it ought to be a consideration, because neither the Dodgers nor the Rangers have a Lucroy or a Jose Molina behind the plate, as things stand. The evidence doesn’t love A.J. Ellis as a framer, and Geovany Soto is merely fine. Greinke’s going to be a massive investment, so these teams need to figure out exactly what he is, and what he is is a guy who seems to have benefited from some talented receivers. It’s on the Dodgers and the Rangers to figure out how good Zack Greinke truly is on his own.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

John Wall tells All-NBA Team voters to ‘keep sleeping’

Minor League team cancels 'A-Rod Juice Box Night'

Dolphins teammate on Dion Jordan: It’s a bad situation

Texans reportedly the favorite to be featured on ‘Hard Knocks’

Report: Goodell will not recuse himself from Brady appeal

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Will Smith suspended eight games for 'foreign substance'

Report: Kobe Bryant likely to retire following next season

Don Shula named in painkiller lawsuit from former NFL players

Kyrie Irving questionable for Game 2 versus Atlanta

Michael Sam signs with CFL’s Montreal Alouettes

Ex-A&M quarterback Kenny Hill transferring to TCU

The Los Angeles Angels are finally finding their groove

Re-evaluating all 30 MLB teams at the quarter mark, ranked

Is virtual reality training the next leap forward for football?

Warriors a very shaky 2-0 against the Rockets

NFL icon Bud Grant zings Pats with Deflategate joke on Twitter

RG3 announces birth daughter's birth on social media

Don't listen to Nick Saban, the bowl system is just fine

MLB scores partial victory in minor league wage lawsuits

Ranking the NBA Playoffs' most significant injuries

WATCH: Will Smith ejected for foreign substance on arm

Guy behind NFL's social media trolling of Pats is a Jets fan?

In defense of 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

John Wall tells All-NBA Team voters to ‘keep sleeping’

Jim Kelly: No doubt Tom Brady cheated

Post-combine NBA Draft big board: Top 30

Ex-players sue NFL for conspiring to push painkillers

Astros surprising, but can get better with Correa

Here come the Giants

Aaron Hernandez got new tattoo in prison

TUF weekly recap by NOS® Energy Drink

Ten players who could benefit due to PAT rule change

Five QBs set for breakout campaigns

Report: Lakers will pursue Thibodeau

MLS leaders struggling with attendance

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.