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Statistically Speaking, Just How Good was Zack Greinke in 2009?

October 17, 2009
Just hand the man the Cy Young already.

Just hand the man the Cy Young already.

The short answer: really frickin’ good.  I think pretty much anybody that knows a little bit about simple baseball statistics will tell you that an ERA of 2.16 is outstanding, 229.1 innings pitched is a lot, 242 strikeouts is excellent, and 51 walks is a low total.  From a pure stuff standpoint, throwing a nasty fastball that averages 93.7 MPH, a hard biting slider averaging 86.1 MPH, a big bendy curve at 73.8 MPH and a developing changeup at 84.1 MPH is pretty damn good.  Greinke’s fastball was the sixth most effective heater in the Major Leagues, and his slider was fourth.  That’s mighty impressive.  So, we’ve established that Greinke’s had one hell of a year and he’s currently a leading candidate to win the Cy Young Award- and his season appears to be one of the more dominant in recent memory.  But just how well does his stellar 2009 compare to others’ in years past?

Here’s my list of top seasons by pitchers (one from each league) from 2003-2009:

Picture 1

I do WAR a bit differently than FanGraphs does it- I use tRA instead of ERA or FIP.  There’s too much noise in ERA and too little data in FIP.  tRA uses batted ball data and run expectancy to determine how well a pitcher would perform in a neutral park, in front of an average defense.  By tRA, Greinke’s 2009 season is the third best in the past six years- which is great, but even more remarkable when you remember that he’s only 25.  Johan was slightly better back in 2004 when he was also 25, and it’d be great to see if Zack could pull off a run of dominance like Johan did.

Zack gets my vote for the Cy Young in 2009.  In all honesty, he should really be the unanimous choice for the award.  58% of the WAR leaders won the Cy Young, which is a relatively positive sign…let’s just hope that the BBWAA is smart enough to recognize just how brilliant this young man was, even without the advanced statistical mumbo-jumbo.  I think a very shiny ERA, good amount of wins and a lot of strikeouts should do the trick.

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