2013 Dodgers in Review #30: SP Zack Greinke

December 6, 2013 at 2:21 pm | Posted in 2013 in Review, Zack Greinke | Leave a comment

90topps_zackgreinke2.63 ERA / 3.23 FIP 177.2 IP 7.5 K/9 2.3 BB/9 (A-)

2013 in brief: Might have made some noise in the Cy Young vote had Carlos Quentin not assaulted him.

2014 status: Still under contract for the rest of time.

******

With all that happened in Zack Greinke‘s debut season as a Dodger, it seems that absolutely no one remembers just how terrified we were when it began. No, not the huge contract, which we loved, or the opt-out, which I really had no problem with at all, and certainly not three days into camp, when we learned about how engaged he was in scouting Corey Seager when he was with Milwaukee.

No, it was early in March, when we started hearing that Greinke’s right elbow was giving him trouble. He was scratched from a March 11 start, then when he returned two weeks later, he didn’t exactly give everyone a lot of confidence by looking terrible.

Miraculously, he was declared ready for the season, and he threw 6.1 perfect innings in his debut against the Pirates. Okay, he didn’t, but…

But most of all, there was Zack Greinke, throwing six and a third perfect innings in his Dodger debut before allowing a hit to McCutchen. Lest you be eager to point out a potential mistake and note that Garrett Jones actually had a single in the second inning, let me remind you how that play actually went down…

…and so I stand by my statement. Greinke went 92 pitches, striking out six, in what was known to be an outing where he’d have a bit of a leash on him after his abbreviated spring.

So with Greinke and Clayton Kershaw leading the way, everything was puppies and roses, especially when he looked good over five innings against San Diego his next time out and… oh… oh no. Damn you, Carlos Quentin.

You know what happened, and so I’m not going to regurgitate it here. Greinke had surgery, but was back on a mound for a rehab stint in less than a month, on May 10. Needless to say, we were terrified:

Considering that the original diagnosis for Greinke was around eight weeks, or mid-to-late June, this would be a phenomenally quick recovery. Is it too soon? I don’t know, and neither do you; we aren’t doctors and don’t know the specifics of his health. We’ve heard that he’s already thrown two bullpen sessions of 60 pitches where he’s reached 90 MPH, and that all sounds great.

My hope, however, is that he’s nearly ready to come back because he’s nearly ready, and not because the team has lost seven games in a row. We’ve seen that be attempted and fail far too many times — looking at you, Matt Kemp from last year — and it’s the last thing this club needs.

Greinke returned on May 15, and… it wasn’t good. In his first four starts, he allowed at least four runs four times. His velocity was down. There were quiet reports indicating that he had absolutely come back so quickly mostly because the team was in such sad shape. There were flashes, like when he threw six scoreless on June 6 against the Braves, but it was mostly about inconsistency. In four starts from June 16 to July 3 — remember, this is when things started going wonderfully for the team — he allowed four or more earned runs three times. And, of course, he was a primary participant in the June 12 brawl with Arizona.

But on July 8, he went into Arizona and shut out the Diamondbacks over seven innings. His next time out, he shut out the Rockies on two hits… and then shut down the Nationals on one run over six innings… and he’d kicked off a run where over his final 16 starts of the season, he allowed more than two earned runs once.

Why? Well, it helped that the velocity came back:

greinke_2013-velocity

…but I found it fascinating that he was seemingly doing it without his best pitch, though that ended up changing as the season went on. Over the second half of the season, his K/BB was 80/19; only Kershaw and Ubaldo Jimenez topped his 1.85 ERA. Oh, and he merely hit .328/.409/.379 in 72 plate appearances, contributing 1.2 WAR on offense alone. Yeah, he was that good.

Greinke kept up his run in the playoffs, striking out 17 against just two walks in three starts, and I know I can’t wait to see what a full season from him might bring. There’s so much risk in these nine figure deals, especially for pitchers, and when you can look back one year in and say “yep, I’d do that deal again 10 times out of 10,” that’s a nice place to be.

******

Next! Chris Capuano‘s weird year!

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