Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Zack Greinke: Dodgers New Ace Will Stay Strong with LA’s NL Team

The biggest pitching name of this year’s class is off of the market as per John Heyman of CBS Sports, the Dodgers have agreed to terms with Zack Greinke. The relevant question for the Fantasy Baseball Crackerjacks is of course, what does this do to his fantasy value?

There are a few things to look at here, so let’s get right to it.

New Digs

He’s moving from a pitcher’s park to a pitcher’s park, so there’s not a lot that really changes here, at least when you compare Angel Stadium to Dodger Stadium. Now, if you factor in Miller Park and Kauffman Stadium, you have a bit more deviation, but take a look at what kind of ERA and WHIP Greinke has produced since becoming a full-time starter for good in 2008.


In case you were wondering, his totals from that time-frame are 3.77 and 1.247. So, 2009 and 2010 stand out a little bit in different ways, but that’s basically the range you can expect. He’s been a mid-high three ERA pitcher in a hitter’s park like Miller Park, a pitchers park like Angel Stadium, and a fairly neutral park like Kauffman. Year-in and year-out, Dodger Stadium is more or less in between Angel Stadium and Kauffman Stadium.

There’s no real reason to project that these numbers will be as good as they were in 2009 or as bad as they were in 2010. He’s jumped around enough to say that his numbers should be pretty consistent wherever he lands.

New Team

With Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez, and Andre Ethier around for a full year, you would think that he’ll get plenty of run support, which would help the win-loss record. Then again, neither Mike Trout and Albert Pujols with the Angels or Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez with the Brewers exactly failed to give him run support, as he had a 15-5 record in 2012 (9-3 with the Brewers, 6-2 with the Angels).

Where the win total may increase a little bit is with the Dodgers bullpen. The Dodgers produced the best bullpen ERA in baseball in 2012, while the Angels were 22nd and the Brewers were dead last (per ESPN). Still, Greinke won 15 games in 2012, so that shouldn’t help too much.

That’s not to say the wins won’t go up a little bit, but I wouldn’t look for much. Let me put it this way, the three best seasons I’ve seen from a starter in the last 20 years belong to Pedro Martinez in 1999, Justin Verlander in 2011, and his new teammate, Clayton Kershaw in 2011. Pedro won 23 games, Verlander won 24, while Kershaw won 21, with Pedro and Verlander doing so for playoff teams and Kershaw doing that for a team that produced a winning record.

The point is that the ERA of pitchers winning 25 games is long over. Bob Welch was the last pitcher to do that, and that came in 1990.

What does this all have to do with Greinke? He’s a fine pitcher, but he’s not at the level of Martinez, Verlander, or Kershaw. If everything goes in the right direction, I can see him challenging 20 wins in 2013, but don’t go overboard with that projection. He won 15 games in 2012, and 16 in 2011 and 2009.

That’s pretty much what you can expect again.

New League

I do think people overstate the difference that the designated hitter makes. The bottom is that good pitchers will be good pitchers in the AL, while bad pitchers will be bad in the NL. But one are where I am looking for good improvement is with strikeouts.

With the Brewers in 2012, he struck out 8.9 hitters per nine innings. When he moved to the Angels, it was 7.9 per nine innings. In his one full National League season of 2011, he struck out 10.5 hitters per nine, which is a point better than his second best season.

If you think about it, it makes sense. In the National League, you not only have pretty close to a guaranteed out in the pitcher, but you often have pretty close to a guaranteed strikeout in many cases.

When you look back to Greinke’s career, that’s really the one area that’s changed the most between leagues. Again, he’s always struck out a lot of hitters, but he’s been substantially better in the National League. That’s one area where you can expect better things.

Final Verdict

Greinke’s not only a good pitcher, but he’s remarkably steady. Yes, 2009 was fantastic while 2010 was pretty average, but 2008, 2011, and 2012 were all rock steady.

Rock steady is exactly what you can expect from Greinke on your fantasy team in 2013. He won’t give you the ceiling of a Verlander, Kershaw, or Felix Hernandez, but he also won’t have a blowup year like we saw from Tim Lincecum and to a lesser extent Dan Haren in 2012. You also won’t need to draft Greinke anywhere near as high as you’d take Verlander, Kershaw, or King Felix, or even as high as Lincecum a season ago, although I wouldn’t wait too long.

Here’s a question I ask myself with a guy like Greinke. If he’s the best pitcher on my team, can I win a championship? The answer is an emphatic yes in this case.

Dixon’s Early Projection Range for Greinke with the Dodgers

Best Case Scenario225198406820-42452.721.05
Worst Case Scenario190186578613-131584.071.28
Actual Projections205190568116-72103.551.20

Editor’s Note: 

At Fantasy Baseball Crackerjacks, we have written a lot about some of the moves that have taken place at the ongoing Winter Meetings in Memphis, as well as some moves that happened leading up to them..

If you haven’t had the chance, take a look at our takes on some of the moves.
Brian Jones

Check out other great articles at Fantasy Baseball Crackerjacks.
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