Saturday, July 09, 2005

« Phenom Greinke on pace for 20-loss season »

By Suss
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."

“Greinke didn't just fall victim to the sophomore slump, he deserves to have it named after him.”
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 so early 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 of Royals games, and Greinke's 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 Player Card he only weighs 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.

EDIT: A couple syntax errors fixed, brought to my attention by keen reader RJ.