Believe it: The Royals' Zack Greinke is the best pitcher in baseball
I've been banging the drum for Greinke for a long time. I've taken plenty of hits over it -- like the time I
I know there is a lot of knee-jerk stuff out there now about the NL being the inferior hitters league -- what with
BUT ... it's obvious that, just because of the DH, the American League will naturally be the tougher league to pitch in. The American League ERA is almost always higher, and often a half-run higher. It's just obvious: DHs are hitting .256/.340/.754. National League pitchers are hitting .144/.186/.186 and NL pinch-hitters are hitting .228/.315/.358. That's just a huge difference. There are undoubtedly other differences ... but I think it's clear that the American League is the tougher league for pitchers.
And so ... Greinke has to get some credit for that. I saw a couple of weeks ago there was a smattering of talk about maybe giving Tim Lincecum the MVP award in addition to the Cy Young. The talk -- our emigo
OK, you can see what I'm getting at here: There is virtually no difference in their statistics -- except maybe win-loss percentage (which nobody could blame Greinke for) and Lincecum does have an edge in K's and WHIP. If Lincecum is having an historic season, then Greinke is too. But there's this: Greinke is having HIS season in the American League. And that's a huge difference, I think. I think it's fair to say that, considering league, Greinke's having a better year.
You can do the same thing with
You will sometimes hear people say that what Greinke is doing is somehow LESS IMPRESSIVE because he's doing it for the Royals while, say,
Well, I have the opposite view. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that if the Royals were a good team and in a pennant race, Greinke would be pitching much better. Obviously I can't prove this -- and no one can prove the opposite either -- but I would say that losing wears down someone like Greinke way more than pressure. The guy loves to compete. That's where he gets his kicks. It has always been like that for him. Part of his magical April, I think, was built around the hope that the Royals (this time, finally) were real contenders.
Again, I couldn't prove it: But I'm utterly convinced that pitching for a going-nowhere team has worn Greinke down physically and mentally. He craves big moments. He hungers for pressure situations. This is the stuff that drives him. And this team, this season, has been like Kryptonite.
This is obvious, but can't be repeated enough. He gave up one run in eight innings at Anaheim and lost, and he threw seven shutout innings against Detroit and got a no-decision. He gave up three hits and one run in seven innings against Texas (10 strikeouts, too) and lost, and he gave up one run in seven innings against Tampa and got a no-decision. He has four other no-decisions when he had quality starts, and he has another loss as a quality start. So that's, what, nine games he had a quality start -- often a lot better than a quality start -- and either lost or got a no-decision.
It's so bad that when he gave up four runs in seven innings against the White Sox -- the ball was just flying out of U.S. Cellular that day -- he said afterward that when you give up four runs you "shouldn't win." No worries there -- he has given up four or more earned runs in a game four times all year and he didn't win any of those games.
Six Cy Young candidates' ERA by decision (you can see that
It's pretty clear -- nobody is more consistently good than Zack Greinke.
This is more of a funny line ... but it's absolutely true. You know that wins play a big role in Cy Young voting. Well, four of the last five Cy Young winners have come out of the American League Central. Last year Cliff Lee won the American League Cy Young. He went 5-0 against the Royals. Sabathia went only 2-2 against the Royals the year before (his team was the Twins), but
A few potential Cy Young Candidates against Royals this year:
Halladay: 1-0, 0.00 ERA
On Tuesday night Greinke made one of the best defensive plays I've ever seen a pitcher make. It was a hard chopper up the middle -- Greinke finished his motion, stopped, jumped about two feet straight up in the air, somehow snagged the ball, pulled it down, landed in a balanced way and threw the runner out at first. You will see pitchers make great plays, but many of them are reflex plays -- throw the glove up fast, stab for the white blur, and so on. Greinke knew exactly what he was doing. It was a fabulous play.
And it reminded me: This guy is a terrific defensive player. He was a shortstop in high school, and he still plays the position like a shortstop.
And so you have a guy who throws a 97-mph fastball, a devastating slider, a 68-mph curveball and an occasionally devastating change-up. As mentioned, he fields his position. He's got a good quick move. He's been the toughest guy in the American League to hit homers against, he's second in the league in strikeouts, he's fifth in the league in walks per nine, and he's second in the league in WHIP.
Over the last year -- this would include last September -- he's 16-9, 2.39 ERA, 224 K's in 214 innings, 46 walks and 12 homers allowed, for one of the worst teams in the league. Nobody has been better than that.
We knew. We really did. Baseball might not be great in Kansas City, but it does count. And I'll just say it again: Zack Greinke's the best pitcher in the game.