Originally written on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 7/28/12

The trade deadline rush has not disappointed so far, and the latest big news is that Brewers General Manager Doug Melvin delivered on his promise to move Zack Greinke. Greinke is now an Angel. Marc Hulet already covered the prospects that the Angels sent to Milwaukee.

Was it a “good” trade? Well, the Brewers are not going anywhere, and Greinke is going to be a free agent who will be expecting a big payday, especially with Cole Hamels now off of the market. The Angels gave up some decent prospects (even if none of them looks likely to be a future superstar), but they are obviously built to win right now. If the standings remain the same (which is a big “if,” even for a good team like the Angels), Los Angeles will be in the playoffs. Greinke gives them even more gas in the rotation. What all this means for the “fairness” of the trade is something for others to sort out. I want to briefly take a look at how Greinke might fit in in the Anaheim and how imposing the Angels’ rotation looks for the playoffs.

On Friday I posted that 2009 was a long time ago. Greinke’s 2009 AL Cy Young campaign was an incredible year, but it was obvious even at the time that it was a career year. Of course, regressing from a nine-win season still leaves plenty of room to be awesome. While Greinke’s 2010 in Kansas City was relatively disappointing, and his ERA has never quiet matched his FIP, he still projects as an excellent pitcher. ZiPS projects his true talent ERA to be around 3 as of this writing (late Friday night/Saturday morning), with a projected FIP of 2.63. The only starter in the majors with a better ZiPS projected FIP as of this writing is Stephen Strasburg. So, yeah, Greinke is pretty good.

In the past, Greinke has had occasional problems with the longball, even if he has increased his ground ball tendency over the last few seasons. Park factors are difficult to compare between leagues, but they can still tell us something. While both the Brewers’ and Angels’ home parks both slightly favor pitchers compared to league average, their component profiles are different. The relevant difference here is that Miller Park inflates home run rates by about six percent compared to the average (the “103″ listed in the table is already adjusted to account for the team playing half of it games away from home), and Angels Stadium deflates them by about six percent. That should help Greinke with the dingers.

I will leave aside commenting on having Mike Trout rather than Ryan Braun playing left field. It should be said that Greinke will also face some challenge moving back to the American League — even aside from the AL’s overall superior talent level, not getting able to pitch to pitchers any more will probably hurt him a bit, so the shift is not all rosy for him.

While I am not one to place too much emphasis on the impact one player can reasonably be projected to have on a team in the playoffs, putting Greinke alongside the rest of the Angels’ rotation pretty clearly makes it the best one going forward. That assumes they make it in, of course, and there is still plenty of time for someone to go on the DL. But adding yet another “ace”-level pitcher means that the Angels are now much better equipped to deal with an injury to one of their starters if that should happen.

Even if one excludes Haren because of his performance and injuries this season, this trade arguably gives Los Angeles three ace-level pitchers. While neither Jered Weaver‘s nor C.J. Wilson‘s projections see them as being as good as their 2012 performance to date, adding Zack Greinke to a rotation already having two pitchers with ERAs under three is pretty nice. Even with Haren’s problems, when he is the team’s number four, that is a heck of a rotation, quite likely the best in the American League at the moment.

Of course, the Phillies never made the World series with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels all in the rotation, so, yes, we have to remember that the playoffs are a very much a game of chance. If one thinks about that at length, one might wonder whether this trade is really worth it for the Angels if they are going to go to the playoffs anyway. However, they are not in yet and injuries (especially to pitchers) are always lurking. And finally, once again: the Angels did not exactly hide their desire to win big and win now during their off-season spending spree. In for a dime, in for a dollar.


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