Why Greinke Will Win the Cy Young (No, Seriously)
Donald “Zack” Greinke will win the 2012 NL Cy Young Award.
- His numbers in 2011 were solid despite a deceptive ERA.
- He pitches in the NL Central. Now, I’m not saying it’s a soft division, but even 47 year Jose Canseco wants a crack at it.
- Zack, and Brewers fans everywhere, won’t be tortured with watching career futility man Y. Betancourt boot the ball around the infield anymore.
- He’s 28 years old and in a contract season.
Hopefully the Crew locks him up to a team friendly deal comparable to Jered Weaver’s before Opening Day. Unfortunately, I don’t see that happening. Add it all up and you have a season that will look more like the historic 2009 Cy Young season then his enigmatic 2010 and 2011 seasons.
Let’s take a closer look at his 2011 numbers. Greinke finished first in the MLB in K/9 (10.54), xFIP1 (2.56) and SIERRA2 (2.66). (h/t Kyle Davis) In fact, Zack’s MLB best 10.54 K/9 ranks among the best strikeout rates seen in the past 20 years. Assuming Zack stays off the basketball court this spring, his 2012 numbers should resemble these impressive 2011 second half numbers: 9-3 record, 2.59 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and 102 strikeouts. Only Roy Halladay and Clayton Kershaw had comparable numbers last year.
The comprehensive 2012 ZiPS projections put Greinke at 16 Wins, 199 IP, 2.98 ERA, and 224 K’s. These projections seem meager when considering reigning CY Young winner Clayton Kershaw won the pitching Triple Crown last season with 21 Wins, a 2.28 ERA, and 248 K’s, plus he is going into his age 24 season. However, in a WAR between Greinke and Kershaw, Greinke wins. (Greinke in 2009 = 9.3 wins above replacement; Kershaw in 2011: 6.8 WAR.) If you could have one NL starting pitcher for a must win game, most would still choose Roy Halladay. That said, Halladay turns 35 in May, and can he really win the Cy Young after the massive workload he ‘s piled up over the years? Ditto for Cliff Lee and Yovani Gallardo; Lee turns 34 in August and has averaged 225 IP the past 3 seasons. Tom Verducci cited Gallardo’s playoff push as reason to be concerned for possible injury this year. Fortunately for Zack, he is in the prime age of 28 and in a contract year. Considering the large discrepancy in performance between his 2009 Cy Young season and 2010 numbers, there seems to be a lot to prove; is he the dominant ace from ’09, or the above-average starter he was in 2010 and 2011. Knowing what we know about Zack, which is very little, I get the feeling he is going to do everything to boost that open market value.
Lack of star power in the NL central and improved defense behind him should boost Greinke’s Cy Young campaign. With the departure of Albert Pujols, Carlos Pena, and even Yonder Alonso, Zack will have a much easier time keeping that HR rate down. (He can finally pitch around Matt Holliday, who in 12 AB’s against Zack has a .917 SLG and 1.378 OPS. Ouch.) Finally, those poor Royals fans, who could rejoice openly in the streets when Yuniesky was traded, can now bury their heads in sand as they are forced to watch the worst infielder in the history of baseball. (I kid, I kid. Ryan Braun in 2007 had the worst defensive season in history. But seriously, Yuni really sucks.) And luckily for Zack, Fielder won’t be airmailing throws to the backstop anymore. Not that Mat Gamel and Aramis Ramirez will be that much better, but replacing Yuni alone should encourage Greinke to pitch to contact more often, rather than going for the strikeout and driving up his pitch count.
Zack Greinke, in every sense of the word, is as enigmatic as they come. But after this season, we can also call him a 2 time Cy Young Award winner. And hopefully still a Brewer.