Zack Greinke started on Monday night in NLDS Game 3 against the Dodgers. He didn’t have his best stuff, but managed to hold the Dodgers — which won a major league-best 104 games and had one of the National League’s best offenses — to one run over the first four innings. Greinke yielded a solo home run to Cody Bellinger, who set the National League rookie record for home runs with 39, in the fifth and another to Austin Barnes to lead off the sixth before exiting.
Greinke’s final line — five-plus innings, three runs, four hits, five walks, four strikeouts — wasn’t pretty, but he still managed to keep the D-Backs in the game. They were never truly out of it until Paul Goldschmidt swung and missed for the final out.
Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times, however, argues that “Greinke’s role in the Diamondbacks’ demise can’t be understated.” Hernandez wrote, “What Madison Bumgarner did in leading the San Francisco Giants to the World Series in 2014, Greinke did the exact opposite over the past week,” also referencing Greinke’s subpar performance in the NL Wild Card game against the Rockies. Later, Hernandez concludes that Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman was “vindicated” for not re-signing Greinke when he opted out after the 2015 season.
Friedman didn’t exactly choose not to re-sign Greinke. He offered the right-hander a five-year contract approaching $160 million. Greinke wound up taking a six-year, $206.5 million deal from the Diamondbacks. It was more that Friedman didn’t want to tack on an extra $9-10 million per year. He still wanted Greinke badly.
Furthermore, it isn’t as if Greinke is anathema to postseason success and would’ve prevented the Dodgers from getting to the NLCS. In 2013-15 with the Dodgers, Greinke made six postseason starts, putting up a 2.38 ERA with a 41/5 K/BB ratio in 41 2/3 innings. The Dodgers went 3-3 because they scored a grand total of 21 runs in those games. Greinke struggled in his two postseason starts this year in part because he faced really good offenses. The Rockies led the league averaging 5.09 runs per game. The Dodgers were sixth at 4.75. In the playoffs, one faces a higher level of competition. Sometimes you succeed, sometimes you fail. It’s usually not deeper than that.
As far as Greinke being the anti-Bumgarner, what of Paul Goldschmidt and his one hit (a home run) in 11 NLDS at-bats? David Peralta went 1-for-13. A.J. Pollock was 1-for-9 with a homer. The D-Backs scored 11 runs over the three games but five were scored on solo home runs and another five came on Goldschmidt and Brandon Drury home runs in Game 2. Only one run was knocked in via non-homer in the entire series. Greinke’s lackluster performance didn’t help, but he was just one actor in the disappointing show the D-Backs put on over the past five days.
When you make $206.5 million, you’re going to be one of the first targets for criticism and will probably be used as a prop for narrative-building. That Greinke is already being vilified after helping lead Arizona to its first playoff appearance since 2011 is not surprising. But acting like his struggles retroactively paint Friedman a genius is faulty and the D-Backs certainly aren’t regretting bringing him into town.