So Zack Greinke has returned to the American League and that is typically a bad move from a fantasy perspective. Obviously, if you’re in an AL-Only league, you’ll be bidding on him no matter what, but still must decide exactly how much of your FAAB to use. Mixed league owners are now no doubt wondering how this affects his value. Let us examine the various factors at play here, between the league switch, team switch and park switch.
For the last three seasons, Greinke’s SIERA and xFIP have been below his ERA and last year significantly so. The primary culprit has been his BABIP, which has come in above the league average every single season since 2005. Whether it has been consistent bad luck, poor defense or an actual lack of BABIP-prevention skills relative to the rest of the league, I have no idea. It might be some combination of all three, but this is not the article to try figuring that out. Since I’m talking about BABIP, let’s first look at the possible change in defensive support.
Defensive Support: The brewers currently rank in the bottom half of the league in UZR/150 with a -2.9 mark, while the Angels are third in baseball with a 6.6 rating. On the BABIP side, the Brewers also rank third to last with a .315 mark allowed, while the Angels are tied for second best in baseball at .276. As a result, Greinke should receive significantly better defensive support with the move. This could help push his season BABIP down toward .300, and increasing his LOB% along with it.
Offensive Support: The Brewers rank fourth in the NL in wOBA and sixth in runs scored, while the Angels rank third in the AL in wOBA and also sixth in runs scored. Based solely on the two teams’ offensive results so far, they look pretty similar, so there should be little change in run support.
Home Run Park Factors: Over the last three years, Miller Park has boosted left-handed home runs by 16% and right-handed homers by 9%. On the other hand, Angel Stadium has suppressed lefty home runs by 7% and been neutral for righties. Greinke’s season HR/FB ratio is just 8.2%, so it’s unlikely he really benefits from the better ballpark. While his home HR/FB should regress, I would expect his away mark to increase, offsetting each other.
Other Park Factors: Miller Park has increased strikeouts by 6%, with Angel Stadium neutral, which when combined with the league switch, hurts his strikeout rate projection the rest of the way. Angel Stadium, though, has deflated runs scored by 9% and left-handed batting average by 5%, which will affect Greinke’s performance in a positive way.
League Switch: The NL has posted a .312 wOBA versus a .319 mark for the AL. Starting pitchers have averaged a 7.3 K/9 in the NL against a 6.9 mark in the AL, while ALers have walked 0.20 more batters per nine. So, obviously, the league switch is going to hurt Greinke’s projected strikeout and walk rates.
So overall, various factors are going to affect Greinke’s projected performance as follows:
League Switch: Negative. Fewer strikeouts, more walks, more home runs allowed and total runs allowed.
Team Switch: Positive. Better defensive support which should lead to a lower BABIP, and possibly higher LOB%. No change in run support.
Park Switch: Likely positive. Fewer home runs per fly ball and lower batting average against. Fewer strikeouts.
There are of course many other factors I didn’t discuss that should go into projecting Greinke RoS, but those would apply to any player. What I can do is assume that his current peripherals represent his true talent level and simply account for the changes brought upon by his move to Los Angeles. I plugged in some updated numbers into my pre-season projection spreadsheet, assuming a .290 BABIP, 2.25 BB/9 and an 8.0 K/9. His ERA drops 0.35 runs, which would result in a 3.09 mark. The ERA drop is due solely to the expected BABIP decline from better defensive support. However, if that doesn’t happen and his BABIP remains static, the changes in walk and strikeout rates would push his ERA up by 0.22 runs to 3.66. I would say that given the probabilities of Greinke posting each of the different skill profiles and the range of ERAs I calculate, his fantasy value shouldn’t change much.
Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.