Of course it would be the defense that did him in. Few pitchers can handle having to throw 30+ pitches in the first inning without some serious effects later in the game. I don't think many people have done analytical work on the effect, but it's common sense that throwing 100 pitches in 5 innings is much more stressful on an arm than say 115 over 9. So it was basically disaster from the beginning for Greinke, on a pretty strict pitch count of 90.
So that's the disclaimer. If you were to take a quick glance at the numbers, it might be cause for a bit of concern-- Greinke's average fastball velocity has been around 93.5 over his past 3 seasons, and last night it was closer to 92. Gameday split up the pitches a bit strangely, but the ones categorized as 4-seamers (typically the hard, straight fastball) averaged 91.6. I'm not concerned at all, however. 2 reasons for that:
- Typically, on the first start back from a long absence, I wouldn't quite expect him to jump right in at his top-notch velocity.
- That extremely long first inning would have probably produced a similar drop in velocity for just about any pitcher. He looked good coming out of the gate, and the defense really just took a major crap on the party.
The graph seems to confirm my suspicions. This is just what Gameday classified as four-seamers to try to avoid distortion. The vertical bars are the breaks in innings, which I thought might be useful. Another encouraging thing is that he was at least able to run it up past 92 in each inning. And when you look at that first inning, it sure seems like he'll have no problem returning to his past normal velocity range next start.
One thing I am going to keep an eye on that's maybe not a cause for concern, but is somewhat interesting, is Greinke's curveball. Comment by slayor in last night's gamethread:
It’s been interesting to watch him pitch in this game. He rarely threw that 80-82mph curveball for the Royals, he usually threw a slower one that ranged from 69-75. Looks like his fastball is about where it should be though, maybe missing a couple mph off the top end. Also, the changeup hasn’t really shown up yet.
He did end up throwing 6 changeups by Gameday's count. But Greinke's curve did average 79 mph last night, and came in at 81 once. His slowest pitch was 78. I haven't seen Greinke throw enough to know if he throws a different curve than the one we saw last night, that he didn't feel comfortable throwing, or just didn't feel the need to throw, or if there was some other factor that was just making him throw his curve hard. The last two years his curveball averaged 74, which would seem to agree with that comment's assessment of frequently throwing the slow curve and mixing in the hard one from time to time. Grienke's a heck of a pitcher, so I'm not really going to question anything he's doing at this point, but I'm going to keep an eye on it going forward.
The rest of the pitch selection looked pretty standard last night. I'm really excited to see what happens when we turn this guy loose.
And as rough as it has been this week, just take a step back and realize that the Brewers starting rotation consists of Zack Greinke, Yovani Gallardo, Shaun Marcum, Randy Wolf, and Chris Narveson. That should make everyone smile.