While it may be difficult to ever top his 2009 campaign, Zack Greinke is crafting one of his best seasons in 2014. He’s posting a sparkling 2.65 ERA through 139.1 IP (matched with a 2.82 FIP and 2.60 xFIP), excellent K/9 and BB/9 numbers (9.88 and 1.87, respectively), and a career best 50.0 percent groundball rate. Surprisingly, he’s performing at a high level despite a .322 BABIP, the second highest of his career.
Greinke’s pitch selection may be the biggest catalyst for his recent dominance. He is emphasizing his change-up this year, raising its frequency from 12.2 percent to 16.2 percent. The result? A jump from 3.6 runs above average for his slow pitch in 2013 to 8.4 runs above average in 2014, which could easily end north of 10 by season’s end.
Take a look at his improved change-up as he struck out Jordan Schafer during last week’s game against the Braves:
As you can see above, hitters are having much more trouble making contact against Greinke this season. With his increased change-up usage, his whiff rates have inflated. Greinke’s O-swing rate (the frequency at which hitters swing at pitches outside the strike zone) stands at an incredible 37.4 percent, a career high and fourth best in the MLB. For reference, his excellent 2009 season featured an O-swing rate of only 26.9 percent. As one would imagine, his overall swinging strike rate followed suite as well, sitting at a career best 11.7 percent in 2014.
Zack Greinke looks to have made big strides this year, with large thanks to his much improved change-up. He’s a new pitcher in 2014, and well on the path to reclaim his seat among the elite starters in the majors.
Nick Pollack writes for Pitcher GIFs and can found making an excessive amount of GIFs on Twitter @PitcherGIFs.