The Brewers have had plenty of problems early on this season, hence their 16-20 record. A few weeks ago, it was the inconsistency of the starting pitching, and occasionally it still is. To go along with that, the offense has been awful the entire season, and questions are rising about the contract of Aramis Ramirez. There have also been injuries, highlighted by the torn ACL of Alex Gonzalez, who appeared to be on pace for a great offensive season in his first year in Milwaukee.
But, amongst all of these problems, there have been a few bright spots. Zack Greinke is one of them. There were also questions about him coming into 2012, following a strange 2011 for him. He went 16-6- the best winning percentage of his career, and tied for his high in wins- with a 3.83 ERA. If you consider his ERA at the All-Star break of ’11 was 5.66, that’s incredible; you don’t see many guys bring down their ERA nearly two whole runs in three to four months that late in the season. Greinke also led the Majors in K/9, and, despite missing the first month of the season, notched 201 strikeouts in just 171 2/3 innings. But, his issues were that he wasn’t pitching deep into games, never reaching the eight inning mark in any of his starts (in fact, he did that for the first time in a Brewers uniform in his last start). Greinke was also giving more home runs than usual, serving up 19 long balls. (That isn’t actually very much, but if you look at his career trends it’s a bit higher than usual).
So far this season, though, Greinke seems to have put all of that behind him. After his start against the Mets today, he’s 4-1 with a 2.88 ERA, and is probably the most consistent starter in the Brewers’ rotation (though you could argue Shaun Marcum has been pretty consistent as well). All of the problems from last year appear to be gone- in fact, those problems he had have turned into strengths. He’s accumulated 50 innings in his eight starts so far, which averages to roughly 6 1/3 innings per start. Also, in those 50 innings, he’s given up just one home run, which is incredible.
Greinke has had one start this year that you could call a disaster. It was his second start of the season, coming against the Cubs. He was solid the first two innings, but everything fell apart in the third and fourth, and wound up giving up eight runs- all earned- in just 3 1/3 innings. Since it was his second start and his first start had been great, I thought it was going to be another year of inconsistency, but it doesn’t appear to be that way now. Since that one bad start, Greinke has had one other sub-par start in which he gave up four runs (three earned) in 5 1/3 innings against the Giants, one of the worst offenses in baseball. That start had me worried, but then I realized that Greinke hasn’t given up more than three earned runs in any of his other starts. So, if he can keep this pace up, he’ll be in for a very nice year. That’s exactly what he needs, considering this is a contract year for him.
I know Greinke’s next start is against the Twins, but I think this is going to be a good test for him. The Twins are just 9-25 on the season, by far the worst record in baseball. But, they’ve historically given Greinke trouble; I believe his ERA against them is somewhere around 6.00. If he does well in that start and can overcome his struggles against the Twins, we’ll know he’s in for a good season.