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Will Diamondbacks ace Zack Greinke make the Hall of Fame?

Zack Greinke #21 of the Arizona Diamondbacks leaves the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the eighth inning with head athletic trainer Ryan DiPanfilo at Chase Field on May 15, 2019 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)

The Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony is on Sunday, where a few more of the greatest to ever play the game will be eternally enshrined in Cooperstown.

The Diamondbacks will not have an alumnus at that event. Only two former members of the Arizona ballclub have had that honor: Randy Johnson and Roberto Alomar, the latter of whom played just 38 games for the D-backs in the 2004 season. But it’s possible that an active member of today’s Diamondbacks team, Zack Greinke, is on his way to the Hall.

The fact that Greinke is 16 years into his career makes this question easier to assess than that of say, David Peralta. The only other longtime MLB veteran on the D-backs is Adam Jones, and his case for the Hall of Fame isn’t as strong as Greinke’s. So we’ll start there:

THE CASE FOR GREINKE

Even upon first glance, Greinke’s numbers are impressive. He’s a Cy Young Award winner (2009) and runner-up (2015), has led MLB in ERA twice, led the league in WHIP twice, led MLB in strikeouts per nine once, and has had a sub-three ERA in a season five times. He’s also been a workhorse, averaging 209 innings per season, and on five occasions has finished top-five in the league in Cy Young voting.

For his career, he owns a 3.37 ERA, a 1.162 WHIP and 8.2 strikeouts per nine, along with a stellar 3.90 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

His strikeouts could be the X-factor, as just a few hundred more in his final seasons of Major League Baseball could get him to the 3,000 mark (he currently has 2,549). Even just a couple hundred more would get him into the top 20 all-time, and only two Hall of Fame-eligible players in the top 20 in strikeouts are NOT in the Hall: Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling, who have each had off-the-field controversies hinder their case.

Some other notes:

–Greinke has 197 career wins, putting him tied for 120th all time. He’ll probably collect a couple dozen more, which would put him in the neighborhood of 75th all time. If he gets 225 wins for his career, he’d have more than Hall of Famers Catfish Hunter, Don Drysdale and Roy Halladay, among others. In that stat, he ranks third behind Justin Verlander and C.C. Sabathia among active players.

–Greinke is 78th all time in adjusted ERA+, putting him ahead of Mike Mussina, Juan Marichal, Bob Feller, Drysdale and Rollie Fingers — all in the Hall of Fame.

–In strikeout-to-walk ratio, Greinke is 16th all time (interestingly, 10 of the 15 players ahead of him on the list are active players — and that includes a sample size qualifier).

THE CASE AGAINST GREINKE:

Greinke’s 3.366 career ERA ranks No. 340 all-time (of course, that number could go up or down quite a bit by the time he retires). The majority of Hall of Fame pitchers finished their career with a better ERA than that, although it should be noted that several had worse marks than that — including Tom Glavine (3.54), Early Wynn (3.54), Mike Mussina (3.68) and others.

In 11 postseason games (all starts), Greinke’s ERA stands at 4.03. A closer look at his series-by-series performance shows that he gave up three runs or fewer in eight of those 11 starts, but the raw number itself may make some voters pause.

Another issue with Greinke’s overall career arc is his sporadic season-to-season performances. He’s finished with an ERA of 3.80 or higher in a season six times. After putting up a 2.17 ERA in 2009, he had a 4.17 ERA in 2010. He also leapt from a 1.66 ERA in 2015 to a 4.37 ERA in 2016. He had a stretch from 2013 to 2015 that his ERA was 2.30, but the rest of his career ERA combined is 3.66.

THE VERDICT:

Greinke probably belongs in the Hall of Fame.

Ultimately, Greinke has better numbers than some of the others that are in the Hall of Fame, and his likely finish near the top 20 all-time in strikeouts is very compelling. He’s also an excellent hitter, defender and baserunner, and his stoic personality has kept him clear of any off-the-field controversy.

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