On Aug. 16, 2008, the Kansas City Royals were out of things, of course, it being August and all. But that day they went to Yankee Stadium. And that day a 24-year-old pitcher named
He did give up two unearned runs, thanks to a satisfying double-error by Royals third baseman
Anyway, something clicked for Greinke that day in New York. Well, I don't know if things in life really "click" or if people slowly blossom and mature and the clicking is just for the observers. Whatever, since that day -- Aug. 16, 2008 -- Zack has been a great pitcher. Truly great. He finished off the season allowing just nine earned runs in his final 44 innings -- a 1.84 ERA, if you're curious -- and he had a 41/9 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and the league hit just .214 against him, and if you watched him pitch in those final weeks, really watched him, you could not help but notice that Zack had become something really special. It wasn't any great bit of genius that inspired me to pick Greinke to win the Cy Young Award before the season started last year.* If you were watching, you could not miss it.
Greinke lived up to everything in 2009, as you know. His 2.16 ERA not only led all of baseball, it was the best mark by an American League pitcher since
Move into 2010, and it hasn't been quite as smooth for Zack. Nobody really thought it would be. He got smacked around a little bit against Boston. He was uncharacteristically wild against Minnesota. Still, he has allowed 1, 4, 2, 2, 0 earned runs in his five starts, so it's not like he fell apart, either. He has a 2.56 ERA through his first five starts, a more-than-respectable 27/7 strikeout-to-walk, and just about the same WHIP that he had last year.
So what's the point? Well, here's the point: Since Aug. 16, 2008, Zack Greinke has made 46 starts and he has a 2.11 ERA.
The Royals' record in those 46 starts? You betcha: 22-24.
A losing record with the dominant Zack Greinke pitching? The Royals have pulled off a lot of crazy stunts in the last 10 or 15 years. But this just might top them all. How do you have a losing record when the starting pitcher is allowing two earned runs every nine innings?
Well, it hasn't been easy, that's for sure. Here is a quick recap of those 24 losses:
• Aug. 16, 2008: Greinke left the game with the score 2-2 in the 7th. The Yankees won in the 13th.
• Aug. 21, 2008: Greinke pitched five innings against Cleveland and only gave up one earned run. Unfortunately
• Aug. 26, 2008: Greinke gave up no earned runs to Texas in six innings. But an error by
• Sept. 7, 2008: Greinke was not at his best -- a classic six-inning, three-run quality start -- and against
• May 9, 2009: Greinke, with a 6-0 record, allowed one run in a complete game against the Angels. Unfortunately, that was an eight-inning complete game because
• May 21, 2009: Greinke allowed two runs in six innings and the Royals were actually leading Cleveland 3-2. Then, as a joke, the Royals thought they might use
• May 31, 2009: Sloppy start for Greinke -- three earned runs in seven innings against Chicago. Yes, others might win when they pitch like that... but that's for others' others. It was 4-4 going into ninth when the deadly combination of
• June 5, 2009: One of Greinke's worst starts of the year -- five earned runs in five innings. The Royals defense chipped in with three errors. The Blue Jays blew out the Royals 9-3.
• June 11, 2009: Again, a bland, good start for Greinke -- 7 1/3 innings, three runs. The Royals were ahead 3-1 when he left, though he did leave two men on. Then the Royals botched a double play grounder,
• June 17, 2009: Greinke wasn't sharp against Arizona and he allowed four earned runs in 6 2/3 innings. Toss in three more Royals errors, an outstanding 0-inning, three-hit, three-run performance by reliever
• July 3, 2009: The beginning of six consecutive Royals losses when Greinke pitched. Admittedly, he was not especially great in these six games, as exhibited by his worse-than-normal 3.65 ERA, but you know, you can make seven digit salaries with a 3.65 ERA. Six innings, two earned runs in this game. There were two more unearned runs thanks to an
• July 8, 2009: Six innings, three runs against Detroit -- not nearly good enough, as someone named
• July 18, 2009: How about seven innings and one run against Tampa Bay? Is that good enough, Sam I Am? No. The Rays scored three in the eighth off the Lethargic Duo of Bale and Cruz. Royals lose 4-2.
• July 24, 2009: What about holding Texas to one run in seven innings? Shouldn't that be enough? No.
• July 29, 2009: OK, so now he gives up two runs in six innings against Baltimore. BALTIMORE. There's no way ... oh wait, there's a way. Twenty-one year old
• Aug. 3, 2009: Well, this one's on Greinke -- five innings, six runs against Tampa and, heck, the Royals only made one error. Royals get stomped, losing 10-4.
• Aug. 14, 2009: After Greinke finally breaks the losing streak, he goes out and throws seven shutout innings against Detroit. Unfortunately for the Royals, they happened to pick the wrong night to face
• Aug. 19, 2009: Four runs in seven innings? That's a no-chancer. The White Sox beat the Royals 4-2.
• Sept. 5, 2009: Eight innings, zero earned runs against the Angels. How did the Royals mess up this one? A
• Oct. 3, 2009: Greinke got beat fair and square on the last Saturday of the season. Scoreless game in the sixth, Greinke and the Royals decided to pitch to
• April 5, 2010: Greinke picked up right where he left off, with six innings and only one earned run allowed on Opening Day. A Willie Bloomquist error allowed an unearned run, but the Royals still led 4-2 when Greinke left. The bullpen collapsed. Royals lost 8-4.
• April 10, 2010: Greinke was not sharp but kind of held it together and gave up four runs in 6 2/3 innings against Boston. The bullpen collapsed. Royals lost 8-3.
• April 16, 2010: Again, Greinke not sharp -- walks five guys. Only gives up two earned runs in five innings. Two more unearned come thanks to an error by, yes, Willie Bloomquist. The bullpen collapsed. The Twins won 10-3.
• April 27, 2010: Greinke threw seven shutout innings, and the Royals led 2-0 when he left the game. No way the Royals could mess up this one. And ... the bullpen collapsed. A double play grounder was deflected into right field by reliever
And that is how a team manages a losing record with a starting pitcher who has a 2.11 ERA.