ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Zack Greinke and Jeff Mathis find chemistry this season

May 18, 2017, 3:38 PM
Arizona Diamondbacks' Jeff Mathis (2) is congratulated by teammate Zack Greinke after hitting a sol...

Arizona Diamondbacks' Jeff Mathis (2) is congratulated by teammate Zack Greinke after hitting a solo home run against the Colorado Rockies during the second inning of a baseball game, Saturday, April 29, 2017, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)

(AP Photo/Ralph Freso)

Zack Greinke has been outstanding for the Arizona Diamondbacks in his nine starts this season, but what has changed for the 33-year-old right-hander from 2016?

The answer may lie in the mitt on the other side of home plate.

There was no nagging injury to overcome or change to mechanics. The main difference for Greinke this season has been working with veteran catcher Jeff Mathis in all nine of this starts.

Mathis was acquired by the D-backs during the offseason along with catcher Chris Iannetta and those two, along with Chris Herrmann, formed a completely new platoon behind home plate. His 13 years of knowledge and experience in MLB were seen as a huge asset in working with this pitching staff.

In 2016, Greinke was coming off his best career season with the Los Angeles Dodgers. In 32 starts that season, he was 19-3 with a ridiculous ERA of 1.66 and 200 strikeouts, coming in just behind Jake Arrieta in the NL Cy Young voting.

Based on his performance, it was understandable — albeit surprising — when Arizona shocked the baseball world and signed Greinke to a six-year, $206.5 million deal.

But his deal, which averages a MLB-record $34.42 million per-year, left many questioning if the D-backs had paid too much for too long considering Greinke would be 38 in his final year of this contract.

His performance in 2016 didn’t help fans get over that feeling of buyer’s remorse. The righty was far from being the ace he was for the Dodgers in 2015. He went 13-7 in 26 starts with a 4.37 ERA, the second highest season ERA of his career. His strikeout total of 134 was also his lowest since 2007.

However, 2017 has seen Greinke return to form in many ways. In nine starts, he has led the D-backs to a 5-2 record with a 3.09 ERA, 66 strikeouts and only 11 walks.

As the season has progressed, Greinke has seemed to become more dominant on the mound. Greinke struck out seven or more batters in each of his last five starts, striking out 11 batters in two of those games. The most he struck out in his first four starts of this season was six.

At this point last season, Greinke was 4-3 with a 5.08 ERA and the D-backs were 19-23.

The majority of his starts in 2016 were caught by Welington Castillo, who was known for his effectiveness at the plate as opposed to behind it for much of the season, with a handful of starts caught by Tuffy Gosewisch.

When speaking about the Greinke and Mathis pairing with MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert on April 20, D-backs manager Torey Lovullo sounded committed to doing it based on the success he was seeing.

“I think that if I’m seeing a certain comfort level or results that are very positive, if it lines up, I will continue to do that,” he said.

Mathis has been effective in his starts with Greinke as a catcher. His Range Factor per game is the highest of his career at 8.90, and his caught stealing percentage of 38 percent is also close to his career best of 41 percent, set in 2012.

Mathis’ batting average of .183 leaves something to be desired, but the D-backs have effectively sacrificed offensive output for an effective and more valuable relationship between pitcher and catcher. Greinke is currently averaging 1.13 strikeouts per inning with Mathis catching him this season, so you might say it is worth it.

Penguin Air

Arizona Diamondbacks

Starting pitcher Zach Davies #27 of the Arizona Diamondbacks throws a pitch during the first inning...
Arizona Sports

D-backs place RHP Zach Davies on 15-day IL, recall reliever Sean Poppen

The D-backs have placed starting pitcher Zach Davies on the 15-day injured list with right shoulder inflammation, the team announced Tuesday. 
23 hours ago
Dallas Keuchel #60 of the Arizona Diamondbacks delivers a first inning pitch against the Detroit Ti...
Sam Graveline

Lovullo: D-backs looking for more stability in starting rotation with Dallas Keuchel

Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel will remain in the rotation with Arizona looking for more stability.
23 hours ago
Arizona Diamondbacks shortstop Geraldo Perdomo and center fielder Alek Thomas (5) leap after the te...
Nikash Nath

ESPN’s McDaniel: D-backs OF Alek Thomas’ ‘stock up’ in rookie ranking

The D-backs' Alek Thomas and Geraldo Perdomo cracked ESPN analyst Kiley McDaniel's rookie rankings published on Thursday.
23 hours ago
Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel flips the rosin bag during the second inning o...
Wills Rice

D-backs avoid sweep with rollercoaster win vs. Tigers in Keuchel’s debut

Dallas Keuchel and the Arizona Diamondbacks secured an 11-7 win over the Detroit Tigers on Sunday in his debut with the team.
2 days ago
Arizona Diamondbacks' Daulton Varsho (12) celebrates his three-run home run against the Detroit Tig...
Arizona Sports

Watch: D-backs’ Daulton Varsho clears pool to cap 5-run inning vs. Tigers

D-backs CF Daulton Varsho sent a 435-foot blast at Chase Field to punctuate a five-run sixth inning Sunday against the Detroit Tigers. 
3 days ago
Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel throws a pitch against the Detroit Tigers duri...
Alex Weiner

D-backs LHP Dallas Keuchel limits damage during inefficient team debut

Dallas Keuchel took the hill at Chase Field for the first time as a member of the D-backs Sunday and provided 4.1 innings.
3 days ago
Zack Greinke and Jeff Mathis find chemistry this season