Loading... Please wait...

John Dewan's Stat of the Week

Zack Greinke's Defense

Posted by

Let’s hear it for pitcher defense!

This is a topic we don’t get to touch on much but it’s pertinent this week with Zack Greinke re-signing with the Royals.

Why? Because this is the Defensive Runs Saved leaderboard for pitchers. SIS began tracking the stat in 2003.

Greinke is tied for the lead with Mark Buehrle, though there’s an asterisk there. Though Greinke’s career began in 2004 and is thus entirely encapsulated by Runs Saved, Buehrle’s career began in 2000 and thus is not entirely captured by our data.

Nonetheless, we can agree that Greinke is very, very good. He’s still a terrific athlete even at age 39 even if he hasn’t quite kept pace with his early-career numbers. His 9 Runs Saved over the last three seasons rank tied for 6th among pitchers. Consistency is a differentiator both for Greinke and Buehrle. Each has nine seasons with at least 5 Runs Saved, most of any pitcher.

Greinke has excellent reflexes (one example here), is quick off the mound (here), can keep runners close (or pick them off), and his throws to any base are right on target (here’s one to home plate). There isn’t much bunting done these days but you probably don’t want to bunt on Greinke. His 14 Bunt Runs Saved rank 2nd among all players, trailing only Adrián Beltré’s 15 (here’s one good Greinke bunt play, as called by Vin Scully).

Greinke generally plays the position mistake-free. He hasn’t been charged with an error since getting in Charlie Blackmon’s way and getting called for interference as Blackmon was rounding first base and trying to go to second base in a game in July 2019.

Our Video Scouts have credited him with only one Defensive Misplay the last three seasons, picking up and then rushing a throw on a Shohei Ohtani roller that appeared to be heading foul in April 2021.

By our accounting, the last instance we have of Greinke not cleanly fielding a ball that cost his team a potential out was in August 2019 on a play where bat and ball came at him at the same time, thus preventing a possible double play (they still got one out).

There are no active pitchers even close to Greinke’s accrued Runs Saved. As you can see in the chart, Dallas Keuchel is 33 runs behind, but given that he had a 9.20 ERA last season, there’s no guarantee he’ll pitch again in the majors. The next-closest active pitchers are Clayton Kershaw (34), Johnny Cueto (33), and Justin Verlander (31).

Someone asked me the other day if Greinke was a Hall of Famer. I think the answer is similar for him as it is for Scott Rolen. It’s a close call looking at his basic career stats. But there are some other things to consider, like standard-setting defense, that could help in pushing him over the top.

The 2024 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot

The neverending debate that is Baseball Hall of Fame worthiness can move ahead to 2024 after the elections of Scott Rolen and Fred McGriff to 2023’s Hall class. Next year’s BBWAA ballot includes not just prominent holdovers like Todd Helton, Billy Wagner, and Carlos Beltran, but also three newcomers who surpass the standard set by Bill [...]

Read More »

How Cody Bellinger Improves The Cubs Outfield

The big move for the Cubs this winter was signing free agent shortstop Dansby Swanson to a seven-year deal. But signing Cody Bellinger to a one-year contract to play center field might be the most impactful defensive move in MLB this offseason.The Cubs played eight different players in center field last year, with 98% of [...]

Read More »

How Trea Turner Improves the Phillies Defense

By MARK SIMONA couple of weeks ago, we wrote about the difference that Cody Bellinger should make for the Cubs, whose center fielders ranked worst in MLB in Defensive Runs Saved last season.What Bellinger represents to the Cubs in center field is what Trea Turner represents to the Phillies at shortstop.Didi Gregorius, Bryson Stott, [...]

Read More »

The Blue Jays Remake Their Outfield

The Blue Jays ranked eighth in MLB in Defensive Runs Saved last season with 44 and they’ve spent a good portion of their offseason trying to improve upon that. A closer look at the components of Defensive Runs Saved might explain why.In 2022, the Blue Jays ranked 3rd in Runs Saved from infield and outfield [...]

Read More »

2023 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot

This is the time of year when we typically write about the Hall of Fame-worthiness of players on this year’s ballot. We’ve previously written about almost all of the prominent candidates and we can sum it up thusly: By the Bill James-created Hall of Fame Value stat (HOF-V)*, which sums a player’s Win Shares and four times [...]

Read More »

2022 MLB Year-End Awards

Happy Holidays!Every year at this time we do some supplemental, statistically-driven MLB awards. These will salute some of the leaders in specific areas of our recordkeeping. Here are the 2022 winners:The Hard-Hitter AwardSports Info Solutions charts every batted ball as hard-, medium- or soft-hit, based on the ball's location and velocity (note that this differs [...]

Read More »

Carlos Correa: Misplay Minimizer

The most distinct thing about how Carlos Correa plays shortstop is that he does so in a way that minimizes the mistakes he makes. We can back up what we say here based on tracking done by our Video Scouts, who watch every play of every game. They credit and demerit players using approximately 30 categories of [...]

Read More »

MLB's Best Players Are Entrenched

Trea Turner and Aaron Judge were among those richly rewarded with new contracts at this year’s winter meetings. We mention them specifically not just because of the size of their contracts, but because they’re currently adjacent to each other on a prominent statistical list. Player Total Runs Shohei [...]

Read More »

Reviewing Hall of Fame Contemporary Era Candidates

By MARK SIMONIf only it were so simple such that we could judge Hall of Fame candidates just on their on-field performance.If we did, the Contemporary Baseball Era player ballot would look a lot different than the eight names who will be voted upon by a committee of 16 voters on Sunday.Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, [...]

Read More »

Sign up to our newsletter

Recent Updates