Astros: Zack Greinke sustains success through evolution
Thanks to Statcast, we can take a closer look at his pitches. It’s no secret that Greinke’s fastball velocity has dropped. In 2009, he averaged a robust 94.3 mph on his four-seamer. For 2019, that dropped to 89.9, the second straight season it was under 90 mph. Interestingly, though, its effectiveness didn’t budge. Batters hit .240 off of it in 2009 and .242 in 2019.
What’s interesting, though, is how his changeup has evolved. There was nearly a full 10 mph difference between the change (84.4 mph) and the four-seamer (94.3 mph) in 2009. For 2019, the difference was only 2.5 mph. The changeup’s velocity actually increased (to 87.4 mph).
Despite that, the change was more effective in 2019. Batters hit .364 off it in 2009 but just .194 in 2019. Statcast only has pitch movement tracking for seasons starting with 2015, but just in that time, the vertical movement of Greinke’s changeup has increased. So we can surmise that the change is more effective thanks to its depth rather than its difference in velocity.
His curveball and slider have both seen decreased velocity and increased movement. The curve averaged 72.5 mph in 2009 and 70.6 mph in 2019, while the slider averaged 86.1 mph in 2009 and 83.7 mph in 2019. Since 2015, both the horizonal and vertical movement on the slider and curve have increased.
Greinke’s sinker, which is a pitch the Astros have tended to discourage pitchers from using, checked in at 90.4 mph in 2019, a fall from 94.2 mph in 2009. It’s not been particularly effective throughout his career, however, as batters hit .293 against it in 2009 and .390 in 2019.