Zack Greinke: Stathead

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Not only did Zack Greinke claim a victory for statheads everywhere by winning the AL Cy Young yesterday despite only 16 wins, afterward he outed himself as a believer in sabermetrics thanks to stathead teammate Brian Bannister:

I’m also a follower … of sabermetric stuff and going into details of stats about what you can control. That’s pretty much how I pitch, to try to keep my FIP as low as possible.

FIP stands for Fielding Independent Pitching, which is a stat that you’ll see me and the rest of the Circling the Bases crew quoting in this space frequently. It attempts to separate pitching from defense by focusing on the things that a pitcher can specifically control: strikeouts, walks, and homers.
Bannister explained that not only has Greinke become a believer in the value of FIP and similar stats, he’s actually used them to improve his pitching:

He’s extremely bright, and he’s really picked up on using all the information out there to make his game better. He’s always had the talent. His confidence level, which is extremely high, combined with his knowledge of the numbers behind the game now, definitely makes him one of the best pitchers in the world. David DeJesus had our best zone ratings, 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.

Max Scherzer of the Diamondbacks has previously talked about his interest in sabermetrics and modern baseball analysis, so the statheads are building a pretty nice rotation with Greinke, Scherzer, and Bannister. Something to think about the next time you see someone dismiss the impact and value of sabermetrics. We’re not all non-athletes who live in our parents’ basements. Some of us win Cy Young awards, marry ex-Cowboys cheerleaders, and live … well, somewhere in Kansas City.

Report: Astros, Michael Brantley agree to two-year, $32 million contract

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Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Astros and outfielder Michael Brantley are closing in on an agreement for a two-year contract in the $32 million range.

Brantley, 31, played a mostly full season last year for the first time since 2015. He hit .309/.364/.468 with 17 home runs, 76 RBI, 89 runs scored, and 12 stolen bases in 631 plate appearances. He made the AL All-Star squad for the third time in his career.

Brantley’s health, though, is why he had to settle for a two-year deal as opposed to a longer contract for a player of his caliber. He will take over in left field. In the event Brantley succumbs to injury woes, the Astros have top prospect Kyle Tucker waiting in the wings.

Update: According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, who also reports that the deal is in place, the Astros plan to rotate Brantley between left field, first base, and DH. That opens up some more playing time for Tucker.