Zack Greinke provided ace-level pitching at the top of the Dodgers' rotation for a second consecutive season, with Clayton Kershaw giving the Dodgers the best one-two punch in baseball.
What went right
Greinke was a steady force in the rotation for a second consecutive season, reaching 200 innings for the fifth time in his career and struck out 207, his fourth time reaching 200 strikeouts.
He increased his strikeout rate from 20.6 percent to 25.2 percent, the third-best of his career. Greinke decreased his walk rate from 6.4 percent to 5.2 percent, his best mark since 2004. His K-BB% of 20 percent was ninth-best in baseball.
Greinke was even better at home, going 10-2 with a 2.55 ERA in 15 starts, with a 27.9-percent strikeout rate and 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings. His 2014 season was one of only eight since Dodger Stadium opened in 1962 with double-digit strikeouts per nine innings.
Though Greinke didn't win a second straight Silver Slugger Award, he did hit .200/.262/.350 with a home run. Among all pitchers with at least 20 plate appearances, Greinke ranked third in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, walks (five), OPS (.612), wOBA (.273), OPS+ (73) and wRC+ (74).
Against the Dodgers' chief division rivals, the Giants, Greinke was 5-0 with a 1.59 ERA in five starts, with 36 strikeouts and four walks in 34 innings. His five wins tied the most by a Dodgers pitcher in a season against the Giants since 1916.
He was solid yet again in the playoffs for the Dodgers, pitching seven scoreless innings with seven strikeouts in Game 2 of the NLDS against the Cardinals.
What went wrong
Much like during spring training 2013, Greinke had an elbow scare with the Dodgers in 2014. He had elbow discomfort in August that required an MRI — which showed no structural damage — and had a start in August pushed back two days while dealing with it.
"I can still pitch at 100 percent effectiveness. Just like when you go on a run, your right foot might be a little sore but you could still run as good as you could if your foot wasn't sore," Greinke said. "I expect to pitch at a 100-percent level, but I don't expect to feel 100 percent while I'm throwing."
Greinke was effective even when not feeling his best, going 5-0 with a 2.25 ERA in his final eight starts of 2014 — including the playoffs — with 44 strikeouts and 10 walks in 52 innings.
Salary: $29 million, including a $24 million base salary plus the final $5 million of his $12 million signing bonus
Game of the year
Greinke pitched six scoreless innings in a rout of the Giants on Sept. 13 in San Francisco, but also homered, doubled and walked at the plate, scoring two runs and driving two runs.
Greinke will make $23 million in 2015, the third season of his six-year contract. It will be an important season for Greinke, who can opt out of his contract next offseason is he so chooses, which would mean walking away from $71 million over the final three years.