I have reserved much of my early-season naysaying for Zack Greinke and Brandon Belt, but both players put on a show in Sunday night's Dodgers-Giants clash. Both Greinke and Belt had pretty robust first weeks, so is time to reconsider their rest-of-season value?
I was skeptical of Greinke due to his declining strikeout rate and velocity from a year ago. Over his first two starts, Greinke has induced swinging strikes on 12 percent of his pitches, notching 13 strikeouts in 11 innings. His velocity is roughly where it was last April, and he has thrown too few pitches to make sense of the increased whiff rate. It's interesting to note that, according to BrooksBaseball.net, he has only a 7 percent swinging strike rate on his four-seamer, which comprises more than a third of his total pitches. If that doesn't improve, it wouldn't take much to bring his whiff and strikeout rates back to mediocre levels.
As for Belt, it's hard not be impressed by a four-homer week. ESPN analyst John Kruk rightly noted during Sunday's broadcast that Belt's production took off during the last two months of last season, crediting -- as many others have -- a changed bat grip and deeper position in the batter's box. The bulk of Belt's increased power last season came in the form of doubles (17 of them over the last 52 games versus seven homers), and this season's microburst of home runs could be due to a more aggressive approach. Belt is averaging just 3.65 pitches per plate appearance, and he's whiffed on 25 of the 113 pitches he has seen. He also has yet to walk this season.
After a mere week's worth of games, this is all just likely noise, but if we're going to get excited about Belt's cluster of homers, then shouldn't we also be concerned about his lack of selectivity?