Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Dodging Zack Greinke

When I saw that Kansas City's ace and lone star player had pitched a nice game against the Red Sox last week (contrary to the observations of Jim Rice), I figured that the Yanks would be running into him as well when the Royals came to town this week.

Up until that point, one of the very few remaining arguments against Zack Greinke's right to the AL Cy Young was the fact that he hadn't faced the Yankees or Red Sox this season. Needless to say, this is a pretty weak point both because pitcher's can't control their own schedule and if you wanted to complain about a lack of competition, you might want to start by noting that he pitches in the AL Central.

The reason that the Yankees didn't see him the first time around this year goes back to the fact that Gil Meche was tagged as the opening day starter for the Royals. This was due in part because he had that designation ever since being signed to a 5 year, $55M deal before the beginning of the 2007 season, but we can be sure it won't be the case next year, barring some unforeseen circumstances. Greinke was the Royals best pitcher last year too, but not by all that much, and as such was ticketed to start the second game of the season. As a result, when the Yankees came to town for the 4th through 6th games of the season, they missed the Zack Attack who pitched in the 2nd and 7th.

[Sidenote: The Yankees actually drafted Zack's younger brother Luke in the 12th round out of Auburn University last June. The lesser Greinke started 9 games for the Staten Island Yanks to a 4.01 ERA in 33 1/3 IP but was released out of Spring Training this year, before he could be assigned to a higher level of the minor leagues.]

As fate would have it, however, Zack Greinke shut down the Twins over 7 innings on Sunday night, temporarily derailing their charge for the AL Central title, and will once again miss the Yankees. This would be a welcome reprieve during the regular season, one that the Yankees never seem to get from the likes of Roy Halladay. However, with nothing left to be determined but how many games over 100 the Yankees can win and who gets the last few spots on the postseason roster, it would have been nice to see Greinke make a start which could potentially tip which way the Cy Young voting goes.

As Joe Posnanski has seemingly taken it upon himself to prove, Greinke is having a historically great season. He currently leads the league with an absurd 2.06 ERA (213 ERA+) and 1.066 WHIP, and has struck out 237 and walked just 49 in 223 1/3 IP. He's gone fewer than six innings only four times all year, and in two of those outings, he didn't allow any runs. His six complete games are second only to Roy Halladay's 8 and both of them have 3 shutouts to their name. Basically, the only reason he hasn't won 20 games yet is because the Royals are historically inept offensively.

As Jason pointed out this morning, Greinke's ERA in his losses is just about equal to CC Sabathia's overall mark. Were he having the same type of season for the Yankees, he'd likely be headed for 25+ wins. If he doesn't get the Cy Young it will rank alongside choosing Bartolo Colon over Johan Santana - and to a lesser extent, Mariano Rivera - in 2005 in terms of recent egregious snubs.

It's too bad we won't be able to see him first hand against the Yankees.


  1. Greinke is a certified headcase. Let's see him try to pitch and put those numbers up in a pressure-filled atmosphere like New York or Boston. My guess is that he would have to leave baseball again.

  2. was* a certified headcase, joe. or did you miss the part where he was the most dominant pitcher at the all star game? it took zack about as long to get three all stars out as it would have taken you to walk to your fridge to grab a beer and walk back, so i wouldn't be surprised. there's a different kind of pressure zack greinke has to face than "atmospheres" like NY or boston--the pressure of knowing that he's probably going to do no better than a no decision if he gives up even two runs with his run support half of these outings. or the pressure of knowing he's backed by the second worst defensive team in the majors. don't think just because he doesn't play in a massive media market that he doesn't know pressure, that's just completely ignorant. when your team is making overtures to sign him in 2012 i think you'll have pulled a 180 on this topic, might as well just go ahead and start right now.

  3. I read recently that Greinke said that New York would be the one place that he wouldn't want to pitch. I don't think you can really fault the guy for it though, he's got anxiety problems and he should be applauded for identifying and conquering them. There's no shame in knowing you limitations, especially when you are as good at something as Greinke is.

  4. Greinkefans,

    Way to rebut my comment! If what Jay said is true, he admitted himself that he wouldn't be able to pitch in NY or Boston.

    You identify the kinds of pressure that Greinke pitches under. But he still pitches. In NY or Boston, he wouldn't be able to pitch at all.

    And give me a break about the All Star Game being pressure-filled. It is an exhibition game! Also, other Royals fans like to trot out the argument about how well he pitched in April when the Royals were in first place. Umm, it is April!

    If Jeff Weaver taught us anything, it is that the Yankees organization will not go after mental midgets such as Weaver and Greinke. So I don't see the Yankees going after him.

    That said, as Jay said, Greinke deserves credit for knowing his limits. And for pitching very well within them. But he will never truly be a great pitcher because of them.

  5. http://www.weei.com/sports/boston/red-sox/alex-speier/2009/09/21/divided-loyalties-why-one-sox-official-will-find-it-har?page=0,1

    Cured? In my opinion, you are a headcase if you are unable to meet all challenges head-on.

  6. I dont really think he could handle NYC but no need to trash the guy because of problems he has had. No one here has any idea what the pressure is on a gigantic prospect and more props to him for overcoming them and pitching well.

    Saying he is a headcase because of some problems he has had is a bit of an ignorant statement, in my opinion

  7. Zack would have no problems PITCHING in New York. What he would have problems with is the media crush that comes with playing in such an environment. It's dealing with people he's uncomfortable with, not getting people out. Fans booing or getting on him would not be a problem for him. He's one of the most competitive people you'd ever meet. It's having to talk to a huge media crowd day after day and answering questions about himself that he abhors. That being said, he's gotten much better at that and is a pretty colorful interview.

  8. I think we're making a dangerous and unwarranted leap from "social anxiety disorder and clinically depressed" to "certifiable headcase".

    That Greinke had a legitimate medical condition, albeit a mental/emotional one, does not mean that he's soft or a headcase. It means that he had issues that most of us are fortunate enough to not experience.

    The guy has come back from his troubles and put together what is likely the best statistical pitching season in a decade. Give him some credit. He didn't choose to get drafted by KC, he didn't set the schedule in a way that he missed both Boston and New York in the two series KC had against both teams this year. He's taken the ball every time it's been handed to him this year, and most every time he's gone out and tossed a gem.

    While I find his comments about "I could never pitch in New York" to be curious, and probably unnecessary, perhaps that's a function of his recovery: he knows his comfort zone, he knows his capabilities and limits. We're not talking about Ed Whitson or Jeff Weaver here, or and aging Kevin Brown or Randy Johnson. Greinke can pitch. That's all there is to it.

    Apparently he gave a press conference for the NY media and acquitted himself well. Don't know if his comments about NY came up, but he apparently was able to handle the NYC media throng for at least a day, and may have won himself some point with the Cy Young voters in the process.

  9. if you honestly believe zack will never achieve greatness because he has no desire to go play for the yankees [by the way you're misreading that statement to the infinite degree with your cute little 'afraid' interpretation, joeboy] then you're just stupid enough for me to walk away from this discussion. there's a huge dichotomy between not wanting to pitch for a team and being incapable of doing so.

    cc sabathia doesn't want to pitch for the royals any more than zack wants to pitch for the yankees, that doesn't mean zack's better..it means they're both more comfortable with the status quo than change, which is actually to be expected nine times out of ten.

    he's shown marked signs of improvement all over the place as far as media involvement goes and has even said that he's having fun with the interactions this year for the first time. now of course you heard he had some SAD issues a few years ago so you think you're the definitive expert on zack greinke's ability to move to a different environment, but the bottom line is you have no idea what you're talking about because you're just reciting talking points which are in no way shape or form upheld by anything you deem to be 'evidence'

    wouldn't your time be better spent arguing on some messageboard about why jeter should get the mvp over joe mauer? at least then you could reference knowledge of at least one of the players involved, unlike the situation we have here..