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Futon Report: Phenom Greinke on pace for 20-loss season

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Last year, sports writers were licking their chops at a young pitcher named Zach Greinke.

Said Rob Neyer in a June 4, 2004 column, “I don’t know that we’ve ever seen a 20-year old pitcher quite like Greinke. … This kid’s the real thing, the best young Royals pitcher since Kevin Appier, and maybe a lot better than that.”

The reason Neyer and many other sportswriters loved Greinke was his range of velocity. He throws five pitches, including two different kinds of curveballs. His fastball can get up to about 93 mph, and one of his curveballs will dance over the plate at a lazy 63 mph. And he’ll hit every speed in between.

His rookie season was about as commendable as you can get for a 20-year-old phenom: 8-11, 3.97 ERA. But this year, Greinke didn’t just fall victim to the sophomore slump, he deserves to have it named after him.

He’s started 18 games. His team has only won three of them. And Greinke has only won one of those.

He’s 1-11, and his ERA Atkinsed up to 6.20. Don’t ask him about Rick Ankiel anytime soon.

But we can’t write off a 21-year-old in his career.

Still, Greinke may become the first person to lose 20 games in a season since Mike Maroth lost 21 in 2003.

Maroth was only 25 when he endured a torrential season for the ’03 Tigers. But in that same year, 20-year-old Jeremy Bonderman also lost 19 games his rookie season.

Look at Bonderman now: 11-5, 3.99 ERA. Some said he was a favorite to be the Tigers’ representative in the All-Star game.

Greinke has nothing to fear. The losses will come because he’s pitching for a Royals team that is dead last in runs scored.

The numbers probably wouldn’t look so bad because the Royals are winning just 34 percent of their games. However, they only win 17 percent of Grienke’s games, and his personal win-loss percentage is half that.

But the personal numbers don’t look too good.

In 50 fewer innings than last year, Greinke already has as many walks as he did last year (28) and has already given up three more earned runs yet has struck out 42 fewer batters. To his credit, however, he does have 2 complete games this year — something he didn’t do in ’04.

And the kid’s a stick. He stands at 6’2, yet according to his ESPN.com Player Card he weighs only 175 pounds. He obviously needs to put on a few (but not to the C.C. Sabathia extreme) before he looks — and pitches — like a 15-game winner.

Edited: bhw

EDIT: fixed graf about percentage about the Royals winning in Greinke’s starts. I suck at life.

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  • http://www.dorksandlosers.com Tan The Man

    Greinke is a good pitcher – he could be great. A lot of people compare him to Maddux… It’s tough being on such a bad team, but at least he’s not on the D-Rays.

  • http://sussfr.blogspot.com Matthew T. Sussman

    I have yet to see him pitch, but I’ve heard promising things. A 63 mph curveball? Tim Wakefield is impressed. But Wake can’t hit 93 on a fastball … anymore.

  • http://www.templestark.com Temple Stark

    I have it on excellent (Sports) authority that sports writers, do not lick their chops.

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    Look, if your ERA is over 6.00 you are going to lose more games than you win. So, his horrific record this season is not entirely due to the fact that the Royals are awful and don’t score many runs…

  • http://sussfr.blogspot.com Matthew T. Sussman

    RJ,

    A bad ERA will make for a bad record. But 1-11 is a horrible win-loss percentage.

    But let’s compare Greinke with the two players who have ERAs below and above him:

    Sidney Ponson, Orioles: 5.93 ERA
    Zach Greinke, Royals: 6.20 ERA
    Hideo Nomo, D-Rays: 6.80 ERA

    Now let’s look at their run support (how many runs their own team scores while they’re pitching in the game):

    Ponson: 6.19
    Greinke: 2.07
    Nomo: 5.97

    (Greinke’s run support is the worst in the AL)

    And now let’s look at their win-loss records:

    Ponson: 7-7
    Greinke: 1-11
    Nomo: 5-7

    What a difference run support makes.

    Greinke has 6 quality starts (6+ IP, < 3 ER) and has lost half of them.

    So yes, the 6.00+ ERA doesn’t help, but his win-loss record is compounded by his haphazard luck.

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    Good research, MTS. My only point was that, even if the Royals led the league in scoring, his miserable ERA would likely lead to a lousy WL record. I did not mean to suggest that he was entirely at fault for his horrid 1-11 record…

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