There weren't many believers in Zack Greinke when the New York Yankees shelled him for seven runs in two innings on June 28. His ERA ballooned to 5.63, and for the first time in his career, he failed to strike out a single batter.
The traditional numbers were ugly, and while advanced statistics pointed to an eventual turnaround, you would have had a hard time convincing people that his first two months as a Brewer were anything but a disappointment.
Greinke did turn it around, though, and since that start in New York has looked like the guy the Brewers thought they were getting. In 17 starts following that nightmare against the Yankees, Greinke put up an ERA of 2.80, struck out 121, and only walked 33.
When the Brewers needed a strong start to help clinch homefield advantage in the NLDS, Greinke threw six innings on short rest and struck out four to surpass the 200-strikeout milestone.
For a Brewers pitcher, that's rare territory. Greinke became just the fifth Brewers starter to ever reach that mark, joining Yovani Gallardo, Ben Sheets, Doug Davis and Teddy Higuera. The fact that Greinke reached that mark despite not making his first start until May 4 makes the feat even more impressive.
Of everyone in the 200-K club, Greinke needed the fewest innings pitched to do it, only throwing 171.2 innings this year (Gallardo held the previous low of 185.0 innings when he struck out an even 200 last year).
With so many strikeouts and so few innings pitched, it shouldn't be a surprise that Greinke led the majors by averaging 10.538 strikeouts per nine innings pitched (K/9). The only other pitcher in the majors to crack the 10 K/9 mark was Toronto's Brandon Morrow, who struck out 10.19 per nine innings.
Greinke's mark is a new Brewers record, beating the 10.025 K/9 Ben Sheets posted in his dominant 2004 season. In fact, Greinke's K/9 this year ranks in the Top 30 of all-time, just behind names like Sandy Koufax, Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson.
I would say that's an impressive season, wouldn't you?
It gets better. Greinke faced 715 batters this season, and struck out 201 of them -- that means he struck out just over 28 percent of all batters he faced. That is -- you guessed it -- the best in the league, outpacing Cy Young candidates like Clayton Kershaw and Cliff Lee. If you look at just the outs Greinke record this year, nearly 40 percent came via the strikeout.
These are, to use a very technical term, Super Nintendo numbers.
If anyone had any doubts left about Greinke over the past few months, those should be erased as we head into the postseason. It took a while to shake off the rust, but it looks like the Brewers finally have the rotation they envisioned last winter when they traded for Greinke and Shaun Marcum.
Greinke and Gallardo especially seem to be peaking at the right time, which could make the Brewers a tough team to beat this October.
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