For years, very few people outside of Kansas City knew who Zack Greinke was. A promising young pitcher playing for a struggling franchise. All that changed last season.
Greinke turned into one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball, easily winning the A.L. Cy Young Award.
His numbers: 16-8 with a 2.16 E.R.A. and 242 strikeouts. Imagine what those numbers would’ve been if he had played on a good team, or even a decent team for that matter.
Greinke was practically untouchable. Of course he had to be since the Royals didn’t give him any run support. Plus, there were a couple of times he left with the lead, only to watch a horrendous bullpen give it up.
Greinke started off 2009 by not allowing a run in his first 24 innings. He ended 2008 with 14 scoreless innings, which meant for 38 innings in a row he didn’t give up a run. I was lucky enough to watch part of the streak in person against Texas last April. Greinke struck out 10 en route to the 2-0 win. It was one of the best pitching performances I have ever seen.
Here’s where the story gets interesting. After being named the Gatorade National Player of the Year, Greinke was selected in the 1st round by KC in 2002. A couple of years later, he was toting the rubber at Kaufman Stadium, a bright future in front of him.
In 2006, Greinke left spring training for personal reasons. It was later revealed he suffered from social anxiety disorder and depression. Greinke wasn’t sure if he wanted to play anymore. However, he would return and soon a star was born.
Prior to 2009, Greinke showed flashes of brilliance. But there is only so much you can do when playing on bad teams. Last year he managed to take his game to another level, becoming arguably the best in the game.
With spring training underway, Greinke looks to be in mid-season form. In his first outing against the Rangers, he threw 2 scoreless innings. He followed that with 3 scoreless against Colorado. Believe it or not, Greinke may actually be getting better.
Hopefully, the Royals will surround him with a real baseball team this season. If that happens, who knows what kind of numbers Greinke will put up.
One thing is certain, he will continue to be a royal pain to hitters.
Written by C. James