On Tuesday and Wednesday, the Diamondbacks’ Shelby Miller and Zack Greinke combined for 15.1 innings, two runs, nine hits, three walks and 11 strikeouts. That equates to a 1.71 ERA and 0.782 WHIP.
Oh, what a difference a year makes.
Granted, Greinke was knocked around by the Dodgers in his start against Clayton Kershaw last week, but the 33-year-old right-hander has otherwise pitched well in 2017 with a 3.28 ERA. That’s a pretty different scenario than where he was through four starts last year, when he carried a 5.25 ERA with a 1.416 WHIP.
After the Diamondbacks signed Greinke in the 2015-16 offseason, they cemented their rotation by adding Miller to complete what should have been a strong one-two punch. Though then-GM Dave Stewart dealt a small fortune in prospects Aaron Blair and Dansby Swanson to go with outfielder Ender Inciarte in the trade to get Miller, the logic was to add the final piece necessary to make a playoff push.
Instead, Miller proceeded to post an 8.69 ERA in April and a 6.15 mark in 20 starts on the season.
Of course, it’s early, but the solid performance of the two pitchers in 2017 has been enough to — at the very least — keep fans’ and the media’s hands off the panic button that was pressed early and often in 2016. It’s ironic that Miller has been a part of that, since Stewart’s highly-criticized trade — and the outrage that ensued — was almost surely a central factor in his eventual firing.
But let’s be honest with ourselves: If Miller — a former All-Star and Rookie of the Year finalist who posted a combined 3.27 ERA in three seasons with the Braves — returns to his old self with the D-backs this year, Stewart will still be a forgotten figure, lost in the narrative that he nearly ruined the franchise.
Heck, even Stewart admits that moving Swanson, the former No. 1 overall pick, might have been a bad idea. But Greinke and Miller’s settling-in with Arizona this season seems to slowly be eroding the narrative that the two starting pitchers are the worst thing to ever happen to the Diamondbacks.
Even though the numbers tell you that Greinke has a 2.64 ERA in his last eight starts at Chase Field (a ballpark where the league average ERA was 5.12 in 2016), the hand-wringing over Arizona’s starting pitching has some thinking that Greinke doesn’t have much left in the tank.
Maybe Greinke won’t ever be an elite pitcher again, but one bad season isn’t the most accurate barometer: He won the Cy Young Award with the Royals in 2009, came back the next year and pitched to a 4.17 ERA (just a tick below his 4.37 ERA in 2016), then rebounded to finish in the top 10 in Cy Young voting three times with the Dodgers.
Greinke and Miller were downright disappointing, to say the least, in 2016. But time is already proving that the Greinke and Miller from 2016 might not be set in stone as the pitchers that Diamondbacks fans will see for years to come. The jury is still out.
Give it time.
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