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Wednesday, May 04, 2022

Posnanski: Zack and Strikeouts (and Ten Who Missed!)

The point is that Greinke is basically trying to do something that hasn’t been done before — pitch effectively while simply not striking anybody out. Leave it to Zack to try something like that.

How would someone go about trying pitch effectively while not striking out anybody? I guess it would take three things:

You can’t give up home runs (and certainly not home runs with runners on base).

You can’t walk anybody.

You have to find a way to give up soft contact.

I’m not sure how you can do the third one without at least the threat of a strikeout. But so far, anyway, Greinke is doing great with the first two. He’s walked three batters all year. And he’s given up two home runs, and both of them were solo shots.

He’s doing the third one too … so far this season, his BABIP — Batting Average on Balls in Play — is .237, which would be far and away the lowest of his career. You will get a whole lot of disagreement about how much control a pitcher has over BABIP, so I don’t know what you can make of this.

But at this moment, Greinke has a 2.57 ERA even with those seven strikeouts.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: May 04, 2022 at 11:19 PM | 15 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: zack greinke

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   1. GregD Posted: May 04, 2022 at 11:48 PM (#6075280)
He is a wonderful and unusual pitcher and the most pleasure I’ve taken in a visiting player is sitting above home plate with my daughter and just laughing at his video game like movement on his pitches.

But this is very unusual for him so I’d assume either 1) it reverts to normal (if not his norm) or 2) hitters catch up/their luck changes and he’s no longer effective. Even without major gas he’s been striking guys out before this year.
   2. Cooper Nielson Posted: May 05, 2022 at 12:16 AM (#6075285)
I had also noticed this because Greinke is on my fantasy team (and I've been a fan his whole career) -- I'm assuming this is "Greinke being Greinke" and he decided to experiment with minimizing his strikeouts just to see what would happen. I'd have to call it a success so far, but I wonder if whatever he's doing is sustainable?

This article also made me explore some other notable low-strikeout pitchers who had success. Mark Fidrych in his miraculous 1976 season only had 97 strikeouts in 250 innings (3.5 K/9 - league average was 4.7, so this isn't SUPER low), but limited opponents to a .579 OPS with a .250 BAbip.

Randy Jones was even more remarkable in 1976. He only struck out 93 in 315 innings, or 2.7 K/9 when the NL league average was 5.0. His FIP was still a pretty good 3.18 (vs. actual ERA 2.74) because he didn't walk many or give up HR. Batters had a .577 OPS against him with a .241 BAbip.
   3. The Duke Posted: May 05, 2022 at 08:53 AM (#6075307)
Joel Pineiro had an incredibly low 1.1BB rate and 4.4K rate in 2009 his HR rate was microscopic too at .5.

   4. Rally Posted: May 05, 2022 at 08:55 AM (#6075308)
Dan Quisenberry was the master at this.
   5. John Northey Posted: May 05, 2022 at 10:06 AM (#6075324)
Wow, had to check - currently 28 innings, 3 walks, 7 K's. 2.3 K/9. That is crazy low. The last time someone threw 100+ innings with a K/9 sub 2.5 K/9 was 2005 Kirk Rueter who had a 72 ERA+ and retired. Then 2003 Nate Cornejo - his best of 4 seasons with a 92 ERA+ over 194 2/3 IP - that was with the 2003 Tigers who lost 119 games. Before that you need to go to 1989 for Mike Flanagan & Jerry Reuss. 3 guys in 1988, 2 in 1984 and so on, no more than a 4 year gap from 1969 to 1989. Last big gap was 1960 (Bob Shaw) to 1969 (Joe Niekro). So up to 1960 it was common, then a big gap until 1969 when it became common again (mound lowered that year) until 1989 - in 1988 PED superstar Canseco was MVP so that might have had something to do with it. 2003/2005 look more like 2 freakshow situations - a guy pitching regularly for a terrible team and a guy who it looks like was in his final year of a long term contract (I'm guessing a 5 year one based on the dollar amounts) who was never a high K guy in the first place. For 162+ IP it is 2003-1989-1988-1984-1983(2)-1980-1979(4)-1978(3)...1969-1960-1953(2). Just 25 cases since 1950 (including 1950 with 2). 17 cases in the last 50 years, 1 in the last 32, 0 in the last 18 years.
   6. Swoboda is freedom Posted: May 05, 2022 at 11:21 AM (#6075340)
Tommy John had some nice years with the Yankees when his k/9 was in the 2.6-3.6 range. Same deal, low home runs, low walks.

   7. Rally Posted: May 05, 2022 at 11:54 AM (#6075344)
From 1980-85, Quis struck out 3.1 batters per 9 innings. He finished top 5 in Cy 5 times, and the other year had a 1.73 ERA. Did this while pitching as many innings as many 2021-22 starters get.
   8. Doug Jones threw harder than me Posted: May 05, 2022 at 03:30 PM (#6075377)
Tommy John, 1980, 2.6 k/9, 3.43 ERA, 22-9, 265 innings, 0.4 Hr/9 (led the league), 1.9 BB/9, so just outside the 2.5 k/9 window.
Tommy John, 1979, 3.6 k/9, 2.99 ERA, 21-9, 276 innings, 0.3 Hr/9 (led the league), 2.1 BB/9
lifetime 4.3 k/9, 2.4 bb/9, 0.6 Hr/9 in 4700 innings
   9. Ithaca2323 Posted: May 05, 2022 at 04:50 PM (#6075400)
Chien-Ming Wang had a 3.1 k rate in 2006 with a 3.63 ERA (a 125 ERA+)
   10. Walt Davis Posted: May 05, 2022 at 07:13 PM (#6075427)
Carlos Silva 2005 with 9 BB in 188 IP ... and two of those walks were intentional!. A 71/9 ratio, 3.4 K/9, 130 ERA+.

And Bob Tewksbury 1990-93: 783 IP, 3.6/1.1, 118 ERA+ with 0.6 HR/9. I named a "paradox" after him in the early FIP days when a number of folks mis-interpreted FIPS as saying pitchers need a big K rate to succeed. Of course it's actually a combo of K, BB and HR and obviously being bad at one can be balanced by being excellent at the other two -- Tewk's FIP in those years was 3.31. (Silva's FIP not so awesome because of his HR rate.)

The issue with those performances is sustainability ... the flamethrowers (and maybe high-K guys in general) seem to age a lot better. Still, even though we were in the early sillyball era, Tewk from ages 34-37 put up a solid 101 ERA+ with a FIP substantially better than his ERA, with a 4.6/1.6 K/BB.
   11. Zach Posted: May 05, 2022 at 08:16 PM (#6075437)
I've noticed that Greinke has a hesitation in his delivery on many pitches this year. It could be he's sacrificing velocity to throw off timing.
   12. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: May 06, 2022 at 02:36 PM (#6075554)
And then of course there was Mark "You All Know His Nickname Already" Fidrych, who had just 3.5 K/9 in his big year of 1976, ranking 75th out of 88 pitchers who qualified for the ERA title. (Fidrych won the AL ERA title; interestingly, NL ERA champ John Denny struck out even fewer: 3.2 K/9.)
   13. Walt Davis Posted: May 06, 2022 at 11:29 PM (#6075623)
Mark "You All Know His Nickname Already" Fidrych

I don't remember it being that long. 28 characters. That just short of "Sweet Swingin' Billy from Whistler."
   14. Kiko Sakata Posted: May 07, 2022 at 12:34 PM (#6075654)
I've noticed that Greinke has a hesitation in his delivery on many pitches this year. It could be he's sacrificing velocity to throw off timing.

But a success in throwing off timing should still be a swing-and-a-miss. It seems like there's a really fine line between "induce weak contact" and "induce no contact" and is it possible to consistently do the former without (accidentally?) doing a fair amount of the latter? (Conversely, if you try for the latter, some of your just-misses become the former, which is one reason why FIP/DIPS works - high-K tends to correlate with low-BABIP.)
   15. Ned Garvin: Male Prostitute Posted: May 07, 2022 at 03:26 PM (#6075662)
I agree with #14. I will also suggest that in the current context of MLB, preventing HR is exceedingly difficult to do with low strikeouts. I can't imagine anyone keeping the HR rate very low while striking out so few.

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