Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Greinke wins Cy Young, admits appreciation of stats

I like Zack Greinke. Not only is he an outstanding pitcher -- he was overwhelmingly voted the American League Cy Young yesterday over Felix Hernandez -- but he's also a much different character than many other major leaguers. Part of that is because he has battled back from being diagnosed with depression and a social anxiety disorder, but another part is that he gives unconventional (and honest) answers.

In this article by Tyler Kepner of The New York Times, Greinke explains that he follows some advanced baseball statistics, possibly becoming the best player to admit to doing so. Here are some of the quotes:

“I thought that could push [Hernandez] over the top, because his won-loss record was way better than mine,” Greinke said. “But I’m also a follower, since Brian Bannister’s on our team, of sabermetric stuff and going into details of stats about what you can control.”

Bannister, a right-handed starter, is known for his appreciation of modern pitching metrics, which emphasize the factors for which pitchers are essentially responsible: walks, strikeouts, home runs and hit batters. In Greinke, he found a like mind.

“He’s extremely bright, and he’s really picked up on using all the information out there to make his game better,” Bannister said by telephone. “He’s always had the talent. His confidence level, which is extremely high, combined with his knowledge of the numbers behind the game now, definitely makes him one of the best pitchers in the world.”

Bannister said Greinke has learned to adjust his pitching based on the advanced defensive statistics. Because of the size of the outfield at Kauffman Stadium and the strength of the Royals’ outfielders, relative to their infielders, it sometimes made more sense to induce fly balls.

“David DeJesus had our best zone rating,” Bannister said, referring to the Royals’ left fielder. “So a lot of times, Zack would pitch for a fly ball at our park instead of a ground ball, just because the zone rating was better in our outfield and it was a big park.”

To that end, Bannister introduced Greinke to FIP, or Fielding Independent Pitching, the statistic Greinke named Tuesday as his favorite. It is a formula that measures how well a pitcher performed, regardless of his fielders. According to, Greinke had the best FIP in the majors.

“That’s pretty much how I pitch, to try to keep my FIP as low as possible,” Greinke said.

So not only is Greinke aware of stats like UZR and FIP, but he's actually using them to his advantage while he's on the mound. With the pitching talent that Greinke, who's only 26 years old, already possesses, opposing batters should be afraid of Greinke even more so going forward in his career.

(HT: Dave Cameron of FanGraphs)

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