Monday, March 26, 2007

Greinke, not Bannister

As readers will find out when ESPN The Magazine hits newsstands in a couple of days, they were wrong to have Brian Bannister slotted in the starting rotation. Alan Eskew's reporting that Zach Greinke is getting the nod, and not as the fifth starter but the third, which means he'll pitch the opening series against the Red Sox, and probably Daisuke Matsuzaka (who threw 104 pitches and five innings of unimpressive no-hit ball today -- if "unimpressive" and "no-hit" can ever be used together -- walking five and striking out six). Since Eskew works for, I'm going to assume his information is accurate. From the story:

Kansas City manager Buddy Bell said Greinke would start the third game of the season, April 5 against the Red Sox, after Greinke's third straight exceptional outing on Sunday.

Greinke struck out seven in five innings against the Brewers while allowing four hits and walking one. Greinke was charged with three runs in the Royals' 7-6 loss, but he easily could have not given up a run. Two runs scored on a Tony Pena Jr. throwing error in the fifth, while the other run that inning scored when Mark Teahen lost Damian Miller's routine fly ball in the sun and it was ruled a double.

At one point, Greinke struck out four in a row. This is his third consecutive exceptional start. His ERA actually rose to 3.32, but, as noted above, it probably shouldn't have.

Jorge De La Rosa remains the No. 4 pitcher, and there's no reason to assume Luke Hudson, the previous No. 3, will be bumped out of the rotation.* However you slice it though, it's nice to see Greinke back in 2004 form.

Which reminds me... there's never a bad time to recall that Baseball Prospectus loves this kid. I hope I'm not abusing any fair-use privileges with this lengthy excerpt, but here's what they wrote in 2005:

With apologies to Jon Landau, we have seen the future of pitching, and his name is Zack Greinke. There are two sets of opinions on Greinke. There's the camp that thinks all the talk about him being the most unique young pitcher of our generation is overblown hype. Then there's the camp of people who have seen him pitch.

Start with his statistical record. He debuted in the majors less than two years after he was drafted out of high school. His 3.97 ERA would have ranked him in the
AL's top ten if he'd qualified. Most impressively, he walked just 26 batters, or 1.67 walks per 9 innings. In the last 70 years, only three other pitchers as young as Greinke walked fewer than 2.1 men per 9 innings. Two of them were Bert Blyleven and Bret Saberhagen.

But Greinke's stats are less unique than his style, which may be unprecedented for a pitcher his age. A scouting report will say that he throws his fastball 93-94, but he only throws maximum velocity on maybe a quarter of his fastballs, preferring to throw 88 with precision than sacrifice some command for increased velocity. He changes speeds on all of his pitches, actually; in any given start he'll throw at least one pitch at 62, another at 94, and hit most every number in between. And that doesn't count the 50 mph floater he learned from Dave LaRoche, his Triple-A pitching coach and famed a generation ago for that pitch.

The article goes on to insinuate that he might win the Cy Young in 2006. Seeing as how he had to essentially start over after last year, when he was diagnosed with social anxiety disorder, maybe we can restart the clock on his Cy Young watch. Say, 2008, after Meche wins it this year.

UPDATE: This should have read, "No reason to assume he'll be bumped out of the rotation when he returns from his injury." Totally stupid on my part to neglect to mention that Luke Hudson is on the DL.

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