Despite Record, Greinke Needs to win Cy Young
It’s probably too early to start this talk, but if I don’t do it now, someone is going to beat me to it.
It’s conceivable that I have a significant bias here, advocating for my favorite baseball player to win the most prestigious award a pitcher can win. It’s probably not fair to the other candidates, because I’m unlikely to change my opinion barring something totally improbable in the last two months. You could say that I’m writing with a slant here.
But you can’t say that I’m wrong.
For one thing, this isn’t a particularly strong AL Cy Young race, despite Zack Greinke’s historic awesomeness. His only legitimate competition is Roy Halladay, and there’s still an off chance that Halladay could wind up in the NL before the end of the day tomorrow.
Last year, I advocated for Halladay to win the Cy Young over Cliff Lee even though Lee had a slightly better ERA. But Halladay had the higher strikeout rate, and he pitched in 23 more innings. In my eyes, I’ll take a pitchers who records more total outs in a close race over a guy with a slightly better ERA.
This applies historically as well. The last Royal to lead the AL in ERA did so by a significant margin: Kevin Appier in 1993. However, he threw about twenty fewer innings with a higher WHIP and a middling strikeout rate, and finished behind Roger McDowell and Randy Johnson, and rightly so.
Well, as of this moment, Greinke has thrown just as many innings as Roy Halladay has, and that ERA race isn’t all that close. Greinke leads the AL by more than half a run, and barring a string of three or more “blown” quality starts, will easily finish the season with the AL’s lead in ERA. The fact that Greinke’s doing what he is with one of the worst defenses in MLB history behind him, a defense that arguably shortens every start by an inning or two simply by misplaying 3 or 4 balls a start, is remarkable.
Put it a different way, here’s a list of all active players who have ever posted a full-season ERA better than Zack Greinke current 2.08 mark (which, as previously menti0ned is somewhat inflated by a bad defense):
And, well, it’s a pretty short list.
There are a few other pitchers in the AL who could get themselves into the Cy Young discussion by finishing strong: Josh Beckett, Edwin Jackson, Justin Verlander, CC Sabathia, Jarrod Washburn, Jered Weaver all have an outside shot.
But the distance of all the non-Roy Halladay pitchers speaks more to just how much of a race this really isn’t right now.
The one blemish against Greinke is his 10-6 record: he may very well only win 15 games. If Zack Greinke winds up with a 15-9 record and a 2.20 ERA, and the Royals end up 15-18 in his 33 starts, there will be some writers who will not vote for him for Cy Young. It’s going to happen, might as well prepare yourself. They’ll look at arguably the greatest pitching season in the last ten years, and ask, rhetorically, if Greinke really did enough?
This same writer will then cast his vote for a player with one or two more wins, and an ERA just south of 3.00. That may very well be Roy Halladay. If Halladay pitches well enough to be the clear cut second best AL pitcher in 2008, he’ll get the Cy Young award. Nevermind that the award was designed for the single most dominant pitcher in the league in any given year. Greinke is going to lose some votes because he had the audacity to sign with the Royals, because he knew what he was getting into, and because, if he had just been a little better than simply the best, he could have won 20 games.
Plenty of others will give Greinke the nod for consistently wowing us over the course of the year. 9 out of 10 weeks, Greinke goes out and does the amazing, and whether or not you score off him is entirely dependant on your ability (luck) to string your hits together in one inning.
In no uncertain terms, Greinke has been, to this point, the most valuable player in the AL this year. It’s a testament to his dominance that he’s still in the discussion for the Cy Young, because pretty much any other pitcher in the league would be pushing 15 losses with the lack of run support and defensive support he gets every single start. Unquestionably, if any pitcher has ever truly deserved the Cy Young, then Greinke needs this honor this year.