Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
December 22, 2010
BASEBALL: Lack of Zack

I'm still getting my head around the Royals dealing Zack Greinke and Yuniesky Betancourt to Milwaukee for Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain and two pitching prospects, Jeremy Jeffress and Jake Odorizzi.

From Greinke's perspective, the deal is great news; he escapes the Sisyphean despair of the Royals (losing out, in the process, on the joys of playing with Jeff Francouer), joins a team that at least for now (pending the end of Prince Fielder's contract after the 2011 season) has some offense and another quality starter in Yovanni Gallardo, but Greinke also avoids testing his mental and emotional health - an issue in the past - against the pressures of a big market. It's obvious that the losing and hopelessness got to Greinke.

For the Royals, Escobar and Cain are both likely to improve the everyday lineup/defense, but Cain's .291/.366/.415 career line in the minors, combined with just adequate base stealing ability, and Escobar's disastrous .235/.288/.326 sophmore season in Milwaukee following a .293/.333/.377 career in the minors, suggests that neither should be regarded as a coming star; Cain will have an uphill battle to fill the shoes of David DeJesus, and it remains questionable if Escobar will ever be a league-average hitter. More here, here and here on how the pieces fit together.

From a business perspective, the deal is great news for Milwaukee, where ticket sales have spiked since the trade, but make you wonder how on earth the Royals are supposed to convince any fans to show up after dumping the team's lone major star a year removed from his Cy Young season. Honestly, this may be the last straw in convincing anybody who still doubted it that this franchise needs a completely fresh start, including - much as it pains me to imagine it - leaving KC.

But what's interesting to me most of all is what Greinke is really going to do now that he's in a new league and away from the train wreck of the Royals. Is he really the superstar we saw in 2009, or the simply good pitcher (more suited to be a #2 starter) of 2007, 2008 and 2010? Greinke's 2009 was spectacular, and it was the product of great pitching, not great defense. His BABIP the past four years has been steady - .317, .309, .307, .309 (unlike his 2004 rookie campaign, when a .269 BABIP made him look closer to ready than he was, fooling the Baseball Prospectus into projecting him as an immediate Cy Young candidate). If you use the crudest fielding-independent pitching measure (((BB+(4*HR))/K)*9), Greinke's 3.53 mark for 2009 is the 13th best among ERA qualifiers since 1977. That's even more impressive when you look at the other guys in the top 15 - Pedro Martinez (four times), Greg Maddux (3), Randy Johnson (3), Roger Clemens (2), Kevin Brown (1) and Dwight Gooden (1, in 1984, not 1985).

But was it nonetheless something of a fluke for it all to come together like that? Greinke in 2009 averaged 0.4 HR, 2.0 BB and 9.5 K per 9 innings, compared to a steady average for 2007-08 and 2010 of 0.8 HR, 2.4 BB and 7.8 K, very good numbers but nothing like his historic 2009. Brown's 1998 may be a good parallel - at age 33 he averaged a career-best 9.0 K/9, matched his career-best 0.3 HR/9, and had his second-best rate of 1.7 BB/9. As with Greinke, those numbers don't totally stick out - Brown had averaged 0.3 HR/9, 1.9 BB/9 and 7.0 K/9 the prior two years (including a slightly fluky 1.89 ERA in 1996), and would average 0.7 HR, 2.2 BB and 8.1 K the following three. He just never again pitched quite as well as he did that one year. That's my guess here - Greinke may have a better ERA than he did in 2010, and the move to the NL may help as well, but I'm skeptical that he can be a guy who consistently strikes out above a batter per inning, let alone with such perfect control and low HR rates.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:45 PM | Baseball 2010 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

Baseball in KC '11 is going to be UGLY!!!! '12 & '13 hold a lot of promise though. When they first started talking of dealing Greinke I said I wanted an organizations top 3 prospects and another one in the top 10. At first look I thought Dayton Moore had lost his mind. When more info started to come out I have started to like the deal. Escobar was the '09 #1 prospect, the two pitchers were the current #1 & #3 and Cain was #8. That sounds like exactly what I was asking for. As I have been saying for the last couple of years, the Royals are coming. Enjoy kicking them around while you can because the cavalry is cresting the hill. Greinke...good bye and good luck. As Billy Butler put it "if he didn't want to be here, we don't want him."

Posted by: maddirishman at December 22, 2010 11:25 PM

Greinke ended up in a nice spot for him, and will I think dominate in the NL. He'll also enjoy swinging the bat--he fancies himself a hitter.

I think ticket sales in KC are going to suffer, at least until August, when people will turn out to see the team of the future begin to arrive. There's a lot of optimism among serious fans. A lot.

Posted by: Thomas at December 22, 2010 11:39 PM

Greinke helps the Brewers instantly. He's very good if not great. Being in the light hitting NL in a super-low pressure town will serve him well. The Brewers have decent starting pitching around him and a potentially above average offense. I don't see Greinke as a Cy Young candidate on a year in year out basis but he has good stuff and should be good for 15+ wins and 200+ innings. Shit, Bronson Arroyo is a stud in that division and he's not half the pitcher Greinke is.

As for the Royals, they have a long streak of being the Royals and I see nothing here to indicate they'll be anything but a bottom feeder in the forseeable future. Hot Minor League Prospects tend to amount to little. Count on many more last or near last place finishes until. That team is sold to someone who gives a shit.

Posted by: jim at December 23, 2010 1:44 AM

Greinke helps the Brewers instantly. He's very good if not great. Being in the light hitting NL in a super-low pressure town will serve him well. The Brewers have decent starting pitching around him and a potentially above average offense. I don't see Greinke as a Cy Young candidate on a year in year out basis but he has good stuff and should be good for 15+ wins and 200+ innings. Shit, Bronson Arroyo is a stud in that division and he's not half the pitcher Greinke is.

As for the Royals, they have a long streak of being the Royals and I see nothing here to indicate they'll be anything but a bottom feeder in the forseeable future. Hot Minor League Prospects tend to amount to little. Count on many more last or near last place finishes until that team is sold to someone who gives a shit.

Posted by: jim at December 23, 2010 1:45 AM

Damn, I hate it when the PREVIEW button...never mind, y'all know of what I speak.

Posted by: jim at December 23, 2010 1:46 AM

Maddirishman: Not all #1 prospects are created equal. The Brewers had the worst farm system in the majors. Getting #1 and #3 ranked prospects from Milwaukee ain't all it's cracked up to be; if those guys were in an organization with a good farm system, they might be their #8 and #12 prospects.

Posted by: David at December 23, 2010 4:16 AM

Royals are building for two years from now...like always a player to his caliber will not be hear due to money might as well get all you can now! Save money and use it for the playoff run in 2013! The central is wide open!

http://sportschatterings.blogspot.com/

Posted by: Ronn Graham at December 28, 2010 9:33 PM

The Royals are always 2 years away. They have lost 93+ games 10 out of the last 14 years. Weren't Alex Gordon and Zack Greinke the ones that were the new core that was going to take them on a playoff run in 2 years about 5-6 years ago? The Royals' owner doesn't give a damn and you don't win when the owner doesn't care.

Posted by: jim at December 29, 2010 12:22 PM

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Posted by: Mayoriassaups at January 8, 2011 10:30 PM
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