Great Lakes Royals

May 24, 2010 7:18 PM

Greinke's Disaster Start Nothing to be up in Arms About

Yesterday's Royals game in a word: disappointing.  It's a word that could be applied to every 5th day of this season, when Zack Greinke takes the mound for Kansas City, and always offers up a quality pitching performance, with varying degrees of reward for his efforts.  The whole season for Greinke has been pretty disappointing, as I'm sure he hasn't reached his personal goals for this season, and at times has resembled a pure fastball-change up pitcher who can't control the zone with his breaking stuff.

Sometimes, when there are days like Sunday, and Greinke doesn't get out of the fourth inning, giving up seven earned runs after getting off to a pretty good start, it's tough to be a fan.  It's going to be five days before he pitches again, and the cold reality of following the Royals is that you just don't know if they will win three of the next four games, or none.  This is not a good baseball team, and this year, it hasn't been a good baseball team even on the days when Greinke pitches.  Last year, Zack starts would build an anticipation from the morning of, throughout the day, and into the night, and it would be exciting to see the Royals play.  Right now, they really aren't an exciting team to watch, regardless of who is pitching.

The thing is, this 2010 team is a better team than the 2009 team, and far less dependent on Greinke to win a game all by himself.  And while 'disappointing' is the word of the day as I try to make sense of exactly what happened yesterday, it's probably better for the mind and soul to spin positive yesterday's events.  Without Mike Aviles and Scott Podsednik in the lineup, the Royals managed to score seven runs.  The bullpen (ignoring inherited runners by Greinke) allowed two runs to score in 5.2 innings of work, and has been consistently and thoroughly improved from the disaster of a group that started the season.

It's about time to finally recognize that the Royals lineup is moving in the right direction for the first time since 2006.  As a team, they are on pace for 702 runs, which would be the best output since 2007, when they scored 706.  Help is coming though, possibly in the form of Alex Gordon from Omaha, possibly in the form of Mike Moustakas from NW Arkansas, and possibly in the form of David DeJesus once again regressing towards his expectation of a 780 OPS season.  If anything, the current pace for run production seems like a low-end projection, and 720-740 runs is a pretty realistic goal for a team who hasn't scored at that rate since 2006.  There are two factors at play here: four guys are producing at above an 860 OPS clip: Billy Butler, Jose Guillen, Alberto Callaspo, and Mike Aviles.  Then at the bottom end, there are three premium defensive positions where the Royals are getting a 680-690 OPS from: Mitch Maier, Jason Kendall, and Yuniesky Betancourt.  That part of the lineup seems pretty constant, at least on a week to week, month to month basis, so the Royals have plenty of room to add runs in the corner outfield.

I'll put that thought on ice because the primary reason for this column is Zack Greinke, and his Sunday line: 3.1 IP, 9 H, 8 R, 0 BB, 1 K, 1 HR.  That's not good.  How uncommon was it?  Well, it was the only "disaster" start by Greinke in the last two seasons.  So, instantly, it's pretty unique.  It's probably not his worst pitching performance in that timeframe though, as he had a stinker in Toronto that was pretty bad last year.  He had to overcome that performance to win the Cy Young, which he did.  His game score for Sunday's game was actually lower: 13 compared to 27.  A lot of the reason for Greinke's struggles in this game was due to poor groundball defense behind him.  He allowed only 5 ground balls, and three of them were not converted into outs.  All 3 of those runs came around to score.  The other problem, that Greinke needed to do better with, was the changeup that Jason Giambi hit out of the park.  That three run homer was the play that put Zack and the Royals in an early bind.

There were a lot of singles and doubles in yesterdays game, which happens to most Royals pitchers with this defense, and will probably happen again.  Troy Tulowitzki has had a heck of a series, and got things started in the 4th.  It's Giambi's homer that separates this game from the rest of the series.

Gil Meche goes for the Royals on Tuesday night.

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