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Greinke Again

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Zach Greinke, One More Time

Zach Greinke and his struggles have been a frequent topic of conversation around these parts, so I thought I'd weigh in one more time.

Summary of the Arguments of the Anti-Greinke Faction
The general idea here is that Greinke was NEVER very good. Anti-Greinkeites point to the fact that his raw ERA of 3.97 last season was misleading, and that his true ERA based on his components should have been about 4.70 or so. They also point to the fact that Greinke is a fly ball pitcher, not a ground ball guy like the young Greg Maddux, and that his K/IP ratios have never been spectacular.
Other Anti-Greinkeites argue, while perhaps not accepting all of the points above, that Greinke is suffering from the effects of being badly rushed, and that he may never get over this experience.
One Anti-Greinke commentator in the diary section pointed out that Greinke has "old pitcher" skills, namely excellent command, and has less room to grow than most pitchers his age.

Summary of the Arguments of the Pro-Greinke Faction
The general idea here is that it is unrealistic to expect that a 21-year-old pitcher to pitch consistently well in the majors. While his 3.97 ERA in 2004 had some positive luck factors involved, even a "true" ERA of 4.70 is very impressive for a 20-year-old pitcher with a handful of Triple-A innings. The Royals have a dismal defense behind him, which also hurts. Greinke pitched well early in the season, but got horrible run support and couldn't win. That's a lot to ask from a young pitcher and so far he hasn't been able to adjust to it.
Pro-Greinkeites also note that while his K/IP ratio isn't great or above average, it's not as bad as the anti-Greinkeites imply. This isn't Allan Anderson where talking about here. Some Pro-Greinkeites (I'm included in this category) point to an apparent change in his pitching approach the last three months. He's not changing speeds like he did before, working from around 82 to 94 MPH and often just from 86 to 94, rather than hitting every spot between 60 and 94 in any one game. He looks confused on the mound.

I asked a poll question last week about Greinke's future. Here are the results:

Greinke will turn into an excellent pitcher: 13%
Greinke will turn into a very good pitcher: 45%
Greinke will turn into an average pitcher with a long career: 28%
Greinke will rebound to some extent but be below average in the long run:5%
Greinke will always suck: 4%
Greinke will have a serious injury and it wont' matter: 3%

58% of readers remain confident in Greinke's ability to turn into a very good or excellent pitcher. Only 12% believe that he'll always suck and/or have a serious injury.

As long-time readers know, in my own analysis I try to blend sabermetric principles with traditional scouting. The best case against Greinke is sabermetric, as stated above, but there are also sabermetric arguments FOR Greinke. Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA system gave him a 0% chance to collapse heading into 2005, a remarkable result. Obviously they were too optimistic, and it will be very interesting to see what PECOTA comes up with this winter. But the point is that both scouts AND statheads loved Greinke heading into 2005.

In this case, my traditionalist side still thinks that Greinke will be fine in the long run, as long as he stays healthy. My stathead side is worried though.