When thinking about most valuable players, Zack Greinke brings up an interesting question. Is a more valuable player, in retrospect, still the player who "pitched the best" i.e. had the better advanced statistics like FIP, xFIP, etc? Or is a more valuable player the one who managed to create the better results, i.e. a lower ERA?
Zack Greinke was certainly one of the best in the former category. Greinke's 2.56 xFIP was the best in the majors in 2011. Better than Cliff Lee, better than Roy Halladay, better than CC Sabathia, better than Justin Verlander, better than everyone. Greinke's 2.98 FIP was the best on the Brewers. Greinke's peripheral stats were absolutely incredible. And despite missing a month of the season, Greinke still outpaced every other pitcher in fWAR.
Unfortunately, that translated into just the fourth best ERA on the team (not that a 3.83 ERA is bad, of course--that's just a testament to how good the entire pitching staff was). Even Randy Wolf had better results. Greinke's problem all season long was the long ball and giving up home runs at seemingly the worst possible times. Often, it seemed as though Greinke was dominating an opposing lineup only to lose focus after a few innings and let runners on base before throwing a meatball down the middle of the plate.Those tendencies got to be very frustrating at times.
Still, home runs aside, Greinke was an excellent pitcher all year long. With a better defense behind him, he could potentially have garnered some attention for the NL Cy Young. The only thing that Zack seemingly couldn't do was pitch deep into games. He pitched into the eighth inning just twice, and couldn't make it out of the inning either time. That's probably at least somewhat in part to him trying to strikeout more hitters due to an awful defense behind him, which we know he was cognizant of.
His best game, according to WPA, was one of those two games, though. On August 28, against the Cubs, Greinke went 7.2 innings and allowed just one run on four hits and two walks, with seven strikeouts. He possibly could have made it the full eight innings, but after allowing a runner to reach second, Greinke was pulled in favor of Francisco Rodriguez. If you're curious, you can read our recap of the game here or check out video highlights here:
Greinke is still under contract for one more year and $13.5MM, the most the Brewers will owe to a player in 2012 as it stands right now.