This was probably the closest vote in SnakePit awards history, with less than three percent covering first, second and third places. When the raw votes were collated, we actually had a tie for first, with Robbie Ray and Brad Ziegler both having received exactly the same number of votes, and Zack Greinke right on their heels. However, on checking the votes, a significant number (about 30%) were submitted by people without providing their SnakePit usernames, as required to prevent ballot-box stuffing, or whose names did not stand up to scrutiny (“bziggle”? Really?). Those were removed from the results, and changed things radically.
For it appears those invalid votes were more likely to be for some candidates than others. Turns out that the “No award” nomination was the hardest hit, losing a full half of its X’s. Ray and Ziegler dropped by the same amount, around one-third, so didn’t see their share change much. But the Greinke vote held up best of all. As a result, Zack increased his overall percentage, to surge past Ray and Ziegler from the unadjusted standings. He claimed the title by a slim margin, with the other two qualifying as honorable mentions. The chart below shows the players who received votes (sorry, Archie!), with the raw percentage in blue and the authorized number in red.
Greinke may have fallen well short of his 2015 campaign, but he was still the best regular starting pitcher on the 2016 Diamondbacks. And it’s not just us: Zack was also named the D-backs Pitcher of the Year by the Arizona Chapter of the BBWAA. He was the only one of the six players with more than ten starts whose ERA+ even broke 90, finishing the season at 101. The team went 16-10 when Greinke took the mound, even though in half of those games, they scored three runs or fewer in support, including six of his seven losses.
He did get off to a rough start, being tagged with the loss on Opening Day as Greinke allowed seven runs over four innings on Opening Day against the Rockies, and went to 0-2 with another loss versus the Cubs. However, he picked up his next two wins immediately, on the road against divisional opponents in San Diego and San Francisco, starting a trend which continued for the season. Zack was 8-2 with a 3.94 ERA away from Chase Field, compared to going 5-5, 4.81 at home.
Greinke won seven consecutive outings from May 17 through June 18. That streak hadn’t been matched since Patrick Corbin in 2013, and had not been surpassed since Brandon Webb’s historic start to the 2008 campaign, when he won his first nine appearances, as well as the last two the previous season. Zack’s 1.90 ERA made him only the second D-back starter to have a sub-two ERA over a 7-game span [Randy Johnson did, on multiple occasions], and the last win made him the fastest pitcher ever to 10 wins with the Diamondbacks, requiring only 15 appearances. He was the first D-back with double-digits in wins at the break since Corbin’s 2013 campaign.
It included the team’s only “true” complete-game shutout (sorry, Shelby!) of the year, a three-hit blanking of the Rays on June 7. It was Greinke’s first CGSO since July 13, 2013 and was the first by any Diamondback at Chase Field since Josh Collmenter in May 2014 against Cincinnati. The resulting Game Score of 81 was the second-highest by a D-backs this year (Robbie Ray managed an 83, but it was against the Padres], and Greinke had four of the season’s ten best starts by that metric. He was having an extremely good June, before having to hit the DL - he had a 1.63 ERA over his six starts and 38.2 innings, holding opponents to a .534 OPS and going undefeated.
While perhaps not strictly related to this award, it’s worth noting that he did win the NL Gold Glove at his position. He also had a .246 on-base percentage (better than both Tuffy Gosewisch and Socrates Brito), and improved his career SB record to 5-0 with a stolen-base against the Rockies on June 23. In that game, he became the first pitcher to score twice and steal a base in a game since the Cubs’ Greg Maddux on May 3, 2004. Only six active players have more career stolen bases without being caught than Greinke.
All told, it wasn’t a bad season, though I’ve little doubt Zack would agree that better was to be expected from him, particularly given the cost. There did seem to be a period of adjustment, Grienke posting a 6.16 ERA over his first five starts with Arizona, compared to 3.94 the rest of the way. It will be interesting to see what he does in the sophomore season of his large contract, especially given a completely different set of battery-mates to throw to. With close to one-third of team payroll tied up in his arm, getting a good level of production from him will be crucial to any hope for the Diamondbacks to return to relevance in the NL West over the next few seasons.