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

DeMarco Murray: 'I'm not worried about the Cowboys'

Turner has great quote in defense of Bridgewater

Gary Bettman's quote about expansion makes no sense

Beltre sends Richards invoice for three broken bats

Herschel Walker: Vikings should trade Adrian Peterson

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Report: Raiders fielding calls about fourth overall pick

WATCH: UAB football player brings helmet to graduation

Andrew Luck to students: 'I'm only 25, I don't have advice'

Mark Sanchez: Tebow is another arm while Bradford recovers

Report: Former LSU CB Jalen Collins failed multiple drug tests

Six players suspended for White Sox-Royals brawl

WATCH: Demetrious Johnson wins with last-second submission

WATCH: Jerryd Bayless beats Bulls with buzzer-beater

John Legend catches Belichick checking out Chrissy Teigen

Jim Rice to Jim Palmer: 'Quit complaining'

Time Warner-Comcast failed merger hurts Dodgers fans

WATCH: Bucks mascot devours fan

Protestors tried to have Orioles-Red Sox game called off

Greg Hardy abandons his Bentley during flash flood

WATCH: LeBron James hits full-court shot after practice

Peyton Manning announces $3 million gift to Tennessee

WATCH: Leah Still scores TD in Temple spring game

WATCH: Todd Gurley shares video of himself sprinting

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

UAB player brings helmet to graduation

Leah Still scores in Temple spring game

Sanchez shares thoughts on Tebow

Stephen A. Smith blasts Tom Brady

Kris Humphries apologizes for Jenner tweet

Five most boring NFL prime time matchups for 2015

Bruce Jenner: "For all intents and purposes, I am a woman"

Jameis Winston vs. Marcus Mariota: Perception vs. reality

Report: Gronk dating former Patriots cheerleader

NFL exec compares Jameis Winson to JaMarcus Russell

NFL does not care about Rams' future in St. Louis

Nothing gleams like late-round draft gold

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.