Despite these concerns, because of the type of pitcher Zack Greinke is, it is fair to expect him to pitch effectively for most of the years that he were to sign for and hopefully avoid any future injury to his elbow.
He is a finesse pitcher who uses defensive shifts to determine his pitch location. Although he has logged thousands of pitches and innings over the years, his arm projects to remain on a similar path for the remainder of his career as it always has. He hasn’t shown much decline in terms of velocity, which is a huge cause of concern when giving a pitcher a contract. Since his age 26 season (2010), Greinke’s average fastball velocity has only dropped by 1.5 MPH and he has been using it less often as he has been developing a more effective change-up. The trend line on Greinke’s fastball velocity the last three seasons in Los Angeles has been flat.
The decrease in fastball usage and the bump in the use of his change-up is something that has turned Zack Greinke from an effective pitcher, to one of the best pitchers in the game.
In 2010 Greinke’s vCH (change-up velocity) was 84.9 MPH. In 2015 he has increased that velocity by almost 4 MPH to 88.2 MPH. His opponents batting average in 2010 was .340 opposed to a ridiculous .158 in 2015. The OPS from 2010 to 2015 has dropped from .825 to just .361. The key to keeping the change so effective is throwing it around the plate and having it look almost identical to your fastball. With only a difference of 3.6 MPH between the fastball and change-up, Greinke has mastered this pitch.
I wanted to look at a pitcher with similar age, and a contract similar to the one we call expect Zack to get. As an example, consider one Justin Verlander, who has been noticeably less effective over the last three seasons in large part because of a decrease in fastball velocity. Verlander threw his fastball 59% of the time in 2015 which is the same percentage he threw it in 2010. This is a big deal because Verander’s velocity is on a negative slope. He has yet to make an adjustment in his approach on the mound and has paid for it.
Zack Greinke is intelligent. He knows that he has to adjust to hitters in order to maintain success in major league baseball. This is why you are seeing an increase in the usage of his change-up, as well as his other off-speed pitches. He has the perfect mechanics a pitching coach dreams of and mechanics that can be sustained for the remainder of his career. The only question is whether Zack wants to come back to Los Angeles. If the answer to that question is yes, then I think you can expect Andrew Friedman to hand him the pen and asking him to sign the dotted line.
As Greinke signs, Friedman has the peace of mind knowing this isn’t the typical 32-year-old pitcher who’d be signing a deal that might tie the hands of the franchise similar deals might have historically.
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