Trout bests Greinke on outer-half pitches
Angels star capitalizes on Dodgers ace's bread-and-butter location
LOS ANGELES -- Zack Greinke, arguably the best pitcher in baseball in 2015, has rolled through the Major Leagues by relentlessly attacking the outer third of the strike zone. But Mike Trout, well, he's in a league of his own.
After his leadoff homer off Greinke in the 2015 All-Star Game -- notably, on a fastball off the outside corner -- Trout got his first regular-season at-bats of the year against Greinke in Friday's Freeway Series opener, a 5-3 Dodgers win at Dodger Stadium. Trout got the better of the matchup, going 2-for-3 off Greinke with an RBI triple smoked into the right-center-field gap and an RBI single lined cleanly into left-center.
The triple came on a 94-mph fastball over the outer half of the plate. The single came on a slider spotted perfectly onto the low outside corner. In fact, of the 14 pitches Greinke threw Trout on Friday (and the four in the All-Star Game), exactly one made it across the inner half of the plate. Greinke pitched Trout away; it just didn't work.
"I thought I had a good idea to face him today," Greinke said after Friday's game. "Just didn't execute my pitches at all. So I didn't even figure out if my game plan was good or not."
While it seemed Greinke was focused on staying away from Trout, he actually tweaked his typical approach to account for the best player in the game.
"If you look at it afterwards, I try to go in on him more than I go in on most people, because I didn't want to just keep going away on him," Greinke said. "When someone's that good and has that few holes, the best plan is to not show him the same thing over and over again and just kind of mix it all around."
But Greinke didn't always hit his spots. He reiterated his comment from after the All-Star Game, when he thought he had a "two-inch window" up and away to pitch Trout: if you miss the tiny zones where Trout's vulnerable, he'll take advantage.
You can see, for example, by watching Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal, that the pitch Trout tripled on Friday was meant to be in. It leaked across the plate, and Trout ripped it.
"Well, he hits in and he hits away," Greinke said. "He hits down also. He doesn't hit up as good, but it's tough throwing up because it's not called a strike very often and you work so hard on keeping the ball down. And he doesn't chase up either."
Greinke's right about Trout not chasing up. His swing rate on pitches at and above the top of the strike zone is consistently among the lowest in the Majors, as FanGraphs' Jeff Sullivan pointed out before the season. Trout's plate coverage essentially makes every pitch selection difficult, and if you miss your spot, you're in trouble.
"Trout does that to everyone, though," Greinke said. Before Friday's start, he had been watching Trout's at-bats against Felix Hernandez to try to gain insight into how the Mariners' ace had pitched him. Then Greinke saw Trout has hit .344 average (21-for-61) against Hernandez with three homers.
"There's not much you can do," Greinke said. "Just throw your best pitches."