Zack Greinke might miss major milestone due to MLB shutdown; will that matter for his Hall of Fame case?
Greinke is 378 strikeouts short of hitting 3,000 for his career
A few weeks ago, I took a look at 10 current active baseball players who I believe have the most to lose from a canceled 2020 season in terms of their Hall of Fame candidacies. Since we're still waiting around for baseball to happen, let's take a closer look at some of these guys. Today, it's Zack Greinke's turn.
In Greinke's case, he might already be Hall of Fame worthy for many voters. I'm on the list, I'll admit. Others might want more compiling stats from the Astros right-hander.
In parts of 16 seasons, Greinke is 205-123 with a 3.35 ERA, 125 ERA+, 1.16 WHIP, 2,622 strikeouts against 642 unintentional walks in 2,872 career innings pitched. He won a Cy Young in 2009, has led the league in ERA and WHIP twice and is a six-time All-Star with six Gold Gloves and two Silver Sluggers. He's long been a true all-around talent. He also threw really well in his first World Series last season after getting dealt to Houston from Arizona at the trade deadline.
In JAWS, Greinke is 36th, slightly below the average Hall of Fame pitcher, but there should be an adjustment there because it's WAR-based, and a bunch of Deadball Era and 1800s pitchers racked up obscene WARs due to heavy workloads. You'll see players like Jim McCormick ahead of Pedro Martinez and Tim Keefe being ahead of Bob Gibson. Yep. Especially in the post-integration era, JAWS really lines up well, though, with traditional thinking on the best pitchers ever.
On the list, Greinke sits ahead of Jim Palmer, Carl Hubbell. Hal Newhouser, Bob Feller, Roy Halladay, Juan Marichal, Don Drysdale and a host of other Hall of Famers known as all-time greats. Greinke is 41st among pitchers in career WAR. There are 65 starting pitchers in the Hall of Fame. His top two similarity score matches are Roy Halladay and Justin Verlander.
With those previous three paragraphs and the eye test -- I've been watching Greinke closely most of his career -- he's already in for me. Something unforeseen would have to change my mind on Greinke getting my Hall of Fame vote.
What if he needs a little extra nudge, though? What would truly solidify his case? I think 3,000 strikeouts moves Greinke into no-doubt territory. It's arbitrary, sure, but lots of voters like tidy plateau numbers like that. Only 18 pitchers have ever hit 3,000 strikeouts. They are all in the Hall of Fame except Roger Clemens (yes, we know why), Curt Schilling (seems likely to get in next vote), CC Sabathia (will be a tough call down the road!) and Verlander (future obvious Hall of Famer).
Greinke sits 378 strikeouts away from that mark. He is 36 years old and only signed through 2021. He struck out 386 batters the past two seasons. As such, if he maintained his current strikeout rate in his ages 36-37 seasons, he would have reached 3,000 just in the nick of time before his contract expired.
Of course, it's a shortened 2020 season. SportsLine has Greinke with 162 strikeouts in 24 starts this season, but we're likely deep enough into this thing to know we aren't getting more than 100 games, which likely caps Greinke's starts around 20. Let's use the same rate and see what Greinke does in 18 games. That's roughly 122 strikeouts, leaving Greinke 256 strikeouts away from 3,000 after 2020.
With him being unsigned past 2021 and likely soon to hit his decline -- not to mention that the owners are likely to severely cut down free agent contracts after a shortened season -- it's reasonable to argue that this shutdown will be what prevents Greinke from getting to strikeout 3,000.
Will that keep him out of the Hall of Fame? We can't be sure. My bet is no, but it will keep him from no-doubt status for some voters, making the road more difficult.
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