View Full Version : Posnanski: Greinke goofy, yet good

03-17-2005, 02:20 AM

Goofy yet good

Greinke: hard to decipher but looks like star


SURPRISE, Ariz. — There are two very different schools of thought about Royals pitcher Zack Greinke. There is one group that believes he is going to be a big star, a future Cy Young Award winner, because he has amazing control, and he throws four good pitches, and he's just 21, and he has this innate sense about getting batters out.

I'm solidly in this camp. I think Greinke, assuming he stays healthy, will be a great one.

But there is another group with another opinion: They think Greinke will never be all that good. They point out that he has not put up huge strikeout numbers — and it is true that most great young pitchers are big strikeout pitchers with big fastballs. They point out that he gives up a lot of home runs — he gave up 26 homers last year in only 145 innings.

And they point out that Zack is sort of, well, off.

Here would be an example:

“Was today the best you felt all spring?” Greinke was asked Wednesday shortly after his dazzling pitching performance — 3 2/3 innings, one hit, three strikeouts, lots of hitters looking bad. It was by far his best outing of spring training.

“No,” Greinke said. “The best I felt was that game when I gave up seven runs.”

All around him, everybody laughed. But Greinke was not joking.

“Why did you feel better that game?” he was asked when people realized he was serious. Greinke paused for a few seconds and looked as if he were in deep thought. Then, after much soul searching, he came up with this answer:

“'Cause I felt really good.”

This would be an example of what Royals fans have come to know as a “Greinkeism.” The outing he is talking about was a bizarre two-inning, seven-run fiasco a couple of weeks ago when he gave up two home runs to Carlos Lee and a double and triple to Brady Clark. Some teammates were not happy with him after that game; they wondered whether Greinke was just out there goofing around and throwing batting practice. But, as usual, Greinke saw it differently. After the game, he was asked what happened.

He offered a classic Greinkeism: “I felt so good, I almost want to dial it back some.”

And another: “I don't want to waste good pitching here.”

And another: “I was just trying to throw first-pitch strikes. And I was doing that. But instead of strikes, those pitches ended up being doubles and homers.”

Yes, Zack Greinke definitely dances to the beat of his own iPod. And that doesn't make everyone all that happy. There have been murmurs about Greinke all camp — from players, fans, management — but the big soap opera has involved Royals pitching coach Guy Hansen, who is a guy who dances to the beat of his own 78 rpm records.

Hansen believes Greinke sets up too far to the left on the rubber and he needs to move over 5 inches.

“Because,” Hansen says, “I don't think (commissioner Bud) Selig and the hierarchy are going to move the plate.”

Greinke, meanwhile, does not want to move those 5 inches.

“I've been standing there since high school,” he said.

And so there was just a little tension before the game Wednesday. Speaking a few hours before the game, Hansen had his thoughts about Greinke: “Here's what I'm trying to tell Zack: ‘Don't be aloof. Remember the guys on the team are your friends. Listen to advice from people who want to help you. And grow up.' ”

But, not surprisingly, there was not as much tension after the game. Greinke was fabulous against the Chicago White Sox. He threw all of his pitches for strikes, changed speeds and looked in complete control.

And he didn't move.

“Zack looked great,” Royals manager Tony Peña said. “He looked like the old Zack.”

Greinke shrugged: “It was the first time this spring I wasn't working on anything. I was just trying to throw like a pitcher.”

How good will Zack Greinke be? There are comebacks to all the doubts about him. The strikeouts thing doesn't bother me because Greinke, after a sluggish first five starts, did show some strikeout ability (6.9 strikeouts per nine innings — above major-league average). Also you should judge Greinke differently because of his phenomenal control. His strikeout-to-walk ratio last year was better than, among others, major-league ERA champion Jake Peavy.

The home-run issue doesn't bother me either because 25 of the 26 homers he allowed last year came with either the bases empty or with one runner on base. The homers tended to come off sloppy pitches — hanging sliders, mostly — and they came in bunches (twice he gave up four homers in a game) and to me all that was just about 20-year-old kid trying to figure out his way in the major leagues.

But more than anything, watching Greinke pitch tells the story. He moves the ball around and adjusts and throws strikes and fields his position brilliantly and keeps his defense involved (last year, he became the first rookie starter in 60 years not to give up an unearned run).

As Hansen says: “He blends Greg Maddux and David Cone and Bret Saberhagen and Brad Radke — there's a lot of great pitchers in him. He just needs to bring them out.”

Wednesday, Greinke brought them out. He looked like one of those grandmasters playing blindfolded chess with kids. He was nine steps ahead of everybody even if he didn't feel as good as he did giving up those seven runs.

“Do you think other pitchers think about all the stuff I think about when I'm on the mound?” he asked me after the game.

I told him that I very seriously doubted it.

Spicy McHaggis
03-17-2005, 02:25 AM
I love the kid, I could give a flip if he's eccentric as long as it isn't detrimental to the team. Blows my mind that he's got such good stuff and is only a bit older than me. If he doesn't become a star its no ones fault other than his own.

03-17-2005, 02:30 AM
He is one of the guys that I will go pay to see pitch... Him and Lima... Saw him pitch twice last year... he has great stuff.

03-17-2005, 02:30 AM
Greg Maddux wasn't a strikeout pitcher. Seemed to do just fine for his career.