That’s one way to interpret Zack Greinke’s claiming of the award for 2009:
It was not surprising that Greinke won, since his earned run average, 2.16, was the lowest in the American League since 2000. But his decisive margin of victory over Seattle’s Felix Hernandez was a sign that voters overlooked his deficiency in another bedrock statistic: wins.
Greinke tied for seventh in the league in victories, with 16. The lowest previous total for an A.L. starter in a nonstrike season was 18.
To what extent voters are finally starting to incorporate the perspective of sabermetric analysts (e.g. many traditional statistics, like wins, distort the quality of individual performances) is still unclear. However the vote for Greinke is pretty good evidence that progress is being made.
What’s more exciting for me is that not only was a pitcher voted the award who was dominant in newer, alternative statistical categories, but that he himself incorporates these statistics into his game plan and pitching strategy:
Bannister [Greinke’s sabermetric-friendly teammate] said Greinke has learned to adjust his pitching based on the advanced defensive statistics. Because of the size of the outfield at Kauffman Stadium and the strength of the Royals’ outfielders, relative to their infielders, it sometimes made more sense to induce fly balls.
“David DeJesus had our best zone rating,” Bannister said, referring to the Royals’ left fielder. “So a lot of times, Zack would pitch for a fly ball at our park instead of a ground ball, just because the zone rating was better in our outfield and it was a big park.”
To that end, Bannister introduced Greinke to FIP, or Fielding Independent Pitching, the statistic Greinke named Tuesday as his favorite. It is a formula that measures how well a pitcher performed, regardless of his fielders.
Music to my ears.