All you need to know about Greinke's streak
If you want to get technical, Zack Greinke's scoreless-innings streak ended at the All-Star Game with a big crack off the bat of Mike Trout in the top of the first. But the Midsummer Classic counts for home-field advantage, not the season stat line. And with eight magnificent innings against the Nationals the Sunday after the break, Greinke's stingy stretch rolled on.
Greinke's streak of not allowing a run (earned or unearned) was up to 43 2/3 innings entering Sunday's start against the Mets, leaving him just 15 1/3 shy of tying another Dodger -- Orel Hershiser -- for the all-time record. (In fact, Greinke's scoreless run is the longest since Hershiser's in 1988.)
Here's everything you need to know about Greinke's great run and what it will take for it to continue:
• If Greinke shuts out the Mets on Sunday at Citi Field, he would be the first in the modern era to hold the opponent scoreless for seven straight starts.
• The Mets, for the record, have averaged the second-fewest runs per game (3.53) in the NL this season and entering Sunday, ranked last in the Majors in batting average (.236). Greinke shut them out for seven innings on July 4.
• Greinke has averaged 6.9 innings per start this season. For the sake of discussion, let's say he shuts out the Mets for seven innings on Friday. That would leave him 8 1/3 shy of Hershiser's innings record. Assuming the Dodgers keep their rotation in order through two off-days next week, Greinke's next outing would be July 31 against the Angels, who average 4.13 runs per game. So hey, maybe Trout can be the one to break this up after all?
• The schedule gets credit for an assist here. Four of Greinke's six starts during this streak have come against teams that rank in the lower-third in the Majors in runs per game -- the Cubs (3.83), Marlins (3.71), Phillies (3.46) and the Mets -- heading into play Monday. Greinke also faced the Nats, who rank 12th (4.21), and the Rangers, who rank 14th (4.16).
• Greinke's run of six straight scoreless starts has only been done twice before in the modern era, both by pitchers donning the Dodger blue -- Hershisher in that 59-inning run to end the 1988 season and Hall of Famer Don Drysdale in May-June 1968. Drysdale held the scoreless-innings record before Hershiser, tossing 58 consecutive frames thanks to six nine-inning shutouts followed by four scoreless innings in his seventh outing before surrendering a run. Hershiser's streak spanned parts of eight starts, and didn't actually end until his first inning of the 1989 season.
• The six-start stretch for Greinke (43 2/3 innings) does not compare favorably to those of Hershiser (55 innings) or Drysdale (54) in terms of length. It does compare favorably in terms of opponents' OPS (.308 for Greinke, .354 for Drysdale, .375 for Hershiser), and Greinke has punched out as many batters (42) in the six starts as Drysdale and more than Hershiser (34), despite throwing fewer innings.
• Yes, the home park has helped the aforementioned dominant Dodgers, in some measure. In 1968, it profiled as the most pitcher-friendly park in baseball, per FanGraphs. In 1988, it was third in that category. But maybe it hasn't helped Greinke to the extreme that some might assume. According to FanGraphs, Dodger Stadium has ranked as either the sixth- or seventh-stingiest stadium in baseball in each of the past three seasons. And anyway, three of Greinke's six starts came on the road. (Hershiser had four of his six scoreless starts come on the road; Drysdale had two.)
• Greinke's secret weapon might just be catcher Yasmani Grandal. He has started every game of Greinke's streak (he did have to leave Sunday's game in the seventh inning after getting struck in the jaw by a foul ball). Grandal leads the Majors in Baseball Prospectus' pitch-framing metrics, which are leveraged by count (i.e., giving catchers more credit for stealing a two-strike strike or not losing a three-ball ball). So when Bryce Harper griped on Sunday about Greinke getting pitches "six inches off the plate," he may have been on to something.
• The opponents' batting average on balls in play during Greinke's streak is .181, well below the league average of .294. So perhaps a little luck has helped here. The Dodgers rate as league average in Defensive Runs Saved, per Baseball Info Solutions, so this seems more a case of the ball being hit at fielders, as opposed to defenders saving the day.
• Greinke's fastball has limited opponents to a .094 average during this streak, per ESPN Stats & Info, 53 points lower than the next-closest qualified pitcher in that span (the Indians' Cody Anderson, .147).
• In his last start, Greinke lowered his ERA for the season to 1.30. The last time a pitcher had an ERA this low on July 19, the year was 1968, and Bob Gibson owned a 1.06.
• Greinke's ERA+ now stands at 281. In his American League Cy Young Award-winning season for the Royals in 2009, Greinke's ERA+ came in at 205. Since 1893, a qualified pitcher has finished a season with an ERA+ of 200 or greater 34 times, with the following moundsmen being responsible for more than one: Pedro Martinez (five), Walter Johnson (four), Roger Clemens (three), Christy Mathewson (two) and Greg Maddux (two).