|Anything Goes: Greinke versus Halladay||| Print ||
Written by Adam Adkins (Contact & Archive) on July 04, 2009
They are, without hesitation, the two best pitchers in the American League right now.Â Some Rangers fans are screaming, "Look at Kevin Millwood!" And I am, but what I see in Millwood is smoke and mirrors.Â A low BABIP.Â He's not going to sustain himself.
Some Tigers fans are hollering, "What about Edwin Jackson?"Â And to them I say, same problem.Â And sorry, Felix, even though I love you, and you've great, you haven't been untouchable.
Zack Greinke and Roy Halladay have been.
Innings pitched is a big deal.Â The best pitchers provide innings in bulk totals, so it's no surprise to see that Greinke has the third most innings pitched in the AL (the top five is Millwood, James Shields, Greinke, CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee) and it should be noted that Halladay would be too had he not missed starts.
Everyone should know by now that a pitcher's win-loss record is a poor way to evaluate performance.Â But in case you don't know that, let me explain.Â Pitchers control three things: strikeouts, walks and home runs.Â That's it, and even those can be lightly affected by umpires or great-wall-climbing outfielders.Â But, by and large, pitchers independently control those.Â Pitchers do not, however, control if they get a win or not.Â They greatly influence it but so does the opposing pitcher's performance, or the performance of the defense, or whether or not the team is hitting well at that particular time.Â Too many outside factors determine W-L, which makes it a poor way to evaluate a pitcher.
However, we do have tools to use.Â Strikeouts per 9 innings (K/9), walks per 9 innings (BB/9) and strikeout to walk Ratio (K to BB) are all excellent ways to look at a pitcher's dominance.Â Go ahead and toss in home runs per 9 innings (HR/9) too.Â I use all four.
ERA is not a great tool, but ERA+ is, and they are different.Â ERA+ reads like a whole number, and also includes park effects, so that each pitcher can be evaluated on an even scale.
For the more statistically inclined, go for SNLVAR or VORP, both found at Baseball Prospectus.
Currently, Greinke is first in AL pitcher's VORP, and guess who's second?Â Roy Halladay.Â (Greinke is 43 runs above replacement, Halladay is 37)Â Again, take away Halladay's missed start, and he's probably only a run behind.
Halladay leads the AL in K to BB ratio with an astounding 6.78.Â Greinke is second, 6.33.
Greinke is first in HR/9, 0.234 (so, that's .2 of a home run allowed per 9 innings or, as us simpletons might call it, unsustainably low; that might rise a bit, guys).Â Halladay is not second but fourth, at .578 HR/9.Â Remember, a HR/9 rate of 1 would mean the pitcher allows 1 home run every 9 innings, so both guys, especially Greinke, are very stingy about the long ball.
Greinke is third in K/9, at 8.8.Â Halladay, not a typical strikeout pitcher, is tenth at 7.8.Â And that's really where we meet the biggest difference between these two.Â Greinke is a full strikeout better, but, remember the K to BB ratio?Â Greinke is lower than Halladay.Â So we can't just take the difference in K/9 and call it over, Greinke wins.
Greinke is more likely to strike out 12, and Halladay is more likely to not walk a soul.Â But both, I think, are equally likely to throw a shutout.
But Greinke has been better, and that's especially evident in ERA+.Â Some of this, mind you, is the absurdly low home run rate, but it all counts, folks.Â Greinke leads the AL in ERA+ with an awesome 220.Â Halladay is third, at 167.Â Look at the difference there.Â 53 points.
Folks, I adore Roy Halladay, and I love his brand of pitching.Â But there's something about Greinke, other than his performance this year. His stuff, the issues he's overcome (Google: Zack Greinke Social Anxiety Disorder), the way he's calm on the mound, the way both he and Tim Lincecum look tiny and yet are still awesome.
I love Zack Greinke.Â I think his performance first off, plus his story, make him not only the obvious starter for the AL in the All-Star Game, but also the current favorite to the Cy Young award.
The Royals fans deserve a great young ace, and they have one.