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Young Pitcher Symposium: Zack Greinke

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Most Similar Pitchers to Zack Greinke Through Age 20

  1. Denny McLain (979)
  2. Joe Coleman (976)
  3. Waite Hoyt (975)
  4. Dave Moorhead (974)
  5. Dick Ellsworth (971)
  6. Bob Friend (970)
  7. Ed Stein (967)
  8. Jack Taylor (967)
  9. Rudy May (967)
  10. Dave Boswell (967)
Other Comparables

Bret Saberhagen
Bert Blyleven
Bullet Joe Bush
Rick Wise
Wally Bunker
Bob Moose

A mixed but interesting list, full of good pitchers but some weird names as well. Greinke's command is much better than the command of almost every pitcher on this list at the same age. Stein and Taylor were 19th century guys who were not truly comparable once differences in era are taken into account.

Greinke draws a lot of comparisons to Greg Maddux and Catfish Hunter, since he is a strike-thrower with major league success at a young age. Neither Maddux nor Hunter shows up on the comp list because Greinke is actually significantly BETTER than they were at the same age. At age 20 last year, Greinke posted an ERA+ of 112 in the Majors. Maddux, in contrast, posted a poor ERA+ of 77 at age 20. Hunter was at ERA+ 82 at age 19 and ERA+ of 85 at age 20.

If you have seen Greinke pitch, it is obvious that he is special. It's one thing to say he has a 90-94 MPH fastball. It's another thing entirely when you see how he can vary the speed and movement on the pitch, how he mixes it with his slider and curveball, how he uses his changeup at any point in the count, how he alters his delivery at various times without breaking down his basic mechanics or hurting himself, how he quick-pitches veteran hitters without fear, how he can throw a 60 MPH curve with the exact-same delivery and release point he uses with his 94 MPH fastball.

Given his pitch-efficiency, his athleticism, and the lack of mileage on his arm, he has a better chance to stay healthy than most young pitchers. The only flaw in his game right now is an excess home run rate.

I've been a baseball fan since 1978, and I have never seen a 20-year-old pitcher with the kind of command that Zack Greinke has, not combined with stuff of his quality. Expectations for him are unavoidably high. All baseball fans should root for Zack Greinke to stay healthy.