Saturday, May 17, 2014

Zack Greinke is really, REALLY good

A little side note to start: Yesterday I was watching MLB Now, a good show in the afternoon on MLB Network.  They went over their top 10 pitchers in baseball right now, which seemed to be based on this season's results.  They revealed #10-6, with Zack Greinke nowhere to be found.  Surely, I thought, he would be in the top five.

Well guess what?  He wasn't.  Somehow the guy who came into Friday night's game in Arizona with a 6-1 record and 2.38 ERA didn't qualify as being one of the 10 best pitchers in baseball.

So what happened on Friday night?  Another gem: eight innings, five hits, no runs, two walks, and six strikeouts.  The Dodgers crushed the Diamondbacks 7-0, he got another win to go 7-1, and lowered his ERA to 2.03.

Hey, MLB Now, is he still not Top 10 worthy?

Without question, Greinke is a true ace and one of the best pitchers in baseball.  Want further proof?  He now has run off 21 straight starts of two runs or less, a streak that goes all the way back to 1914.  Actually, it might go back even further, but no one seems to know for sure.

Here's what I know for sure, and that is the Dodgers are reaping the rewards of a healthy, confident, hungry pitcher.  After he signed a six-year, $147 million contract before the 2013 season, the word on him was that perhaps he was not the same pitcher who won the 2009 AL Cy Young with the Royals.  He's suffered from anxiety issues in the past, which goes back to before his dominating '09 season.  Going to a big pond like Los Angeles might not mesh well with him at all.

Well, not only has he settled in, but he's right up there as an early favorite for this year's NL Cy Young.  Johnny Cueto has the edge on everyone right now (1.25 ERA, 0.75 WHIP), but Greinke is right behind with guys like Jeff Samardzija and Adam Wainwright, among a few others. 

The best part is that there's no reason to think Greinke will slow down, as his ERA on the road (1.65) is better than at home (2.42).  Considering he has a 2.15 career ERA at Dodger Stadium, I'd say things are looking up.

All things considered, what's most likely helping Greinke the most is the presence of Clayton Kershaw, who is currently slotted right after him in the rotation.  Talk about a dominating 1-2 punch!  When Kershaw signed his astronomical deal this past offseason, I'll bet the third happiest person right behind Clayton and Mrs. Kershaw was Greinke, who knows he will not get the most attention on the staff.  That's a role Kershaw accepts and embraces, and that confidence has to trickle down to Greinke.

The key now will be keeping Greinke healthy, as you see how quickly things can turn around for star pitchers (see: Fernandez, Jose).  I'm certainly no doctor, but I have watched a lot of baseball, and it seems like Greinke is at less of a risk for injury because he's not one to throw it by you every pitch anymore.  In fact, Yahoo's Tim Brown recently wrote about Greinke gradually easing up on throwing so many sliders, putting his elbow at much less risk of injury.

The pitch Fernandez likes to throw so much?  The slider.  You get the point.

So, it's easy to feel confident that not only will Greinke win each time he takes the mound, but he'll also be healthy enough to do it again in five days.  And not only will he do it again, but probably better and build up his Cy Young resume even more.

Hyun-Jin Ryu is due back soon, Yasiel Puig is red hot, Dee Gordon is running all over the place, and even Hanley Ramirez showed some signs of life with an RBI double in last night's game.  Oh ya, and Greinke and Kershaw pitch back-to-back.  Are the Dodgers ready to take all of this and go on another run?  They very well could be.

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