Don't let Royals ruin Greinke's Cy Young bid

BY foxsports • September 17, 2009

In the end, will Zack Greinke be penalized because he pitches for the Kansas City Royals?

That's the essence of the American League Cy Young Award race, with a little more than two weeks left in the regular season.

Zack Greinke entered Thursday with the lowest ERA in the majors at 2.19. An AL pitcher has finished with the best overall ERA four times since 2000. Two won the Cy Young Award unanimously and two lost out to 20-game winners.
Cy Young
Pedro Martinez, BOS, 1.74
Pedro Martinez, BOS, 2.26
Barry Zito, OAK
Pedro Martinez, BOS, 2.22
Roy Halladay, TOR
Johan Santana, MIN, 2.77

Greinke had a major league-best 2.19 ERA entering Thursday's start against the Tigers ... then lowered it with five shutout innings. His other numbers are near the top of the American League, too: second with 222 strikeouts, second with six complete games, fifth with 210 1/3 innings.

Oh, and he's thrown three shutouts. That leads the league.

Based on that array of numbers alone, the award should be his.

Let's not outthink ourselves here: An American League pitcher is leading the majors in ERA. The last AL starter to do that — Johan Santana in 2006 — won the Cy Young Award easily.

Check that. He won it unanimously . And Santana's ERA was higher three years ago than Greinke's is now.

But some people are hesitant to call Greinke the best pitcher in the American League for two reasons: He's pitching for a team that's been out of the race for months and his 14 victories don't compare favorably with totals for the other Cy Young candidates.

Both are valid points. And both are largely out of his control.

Consider that Greinke has allowed one or zero earned runs on six occasions without earning a victory. Six! If he had won half those games, he would be one ahead of Justin Verlander and tied with CC Sabathia at 17 ... and a much stronger candidate in the eyes of some.

Instead, a lousy offense (second-fewest runs in the league) and lousy bullpen (highest ERA in the league) conspired against him.

Horacio Ramirez, for example, gave up Greinke's one-run lead against Cleveland on May 21. The Royals lost 8-3.

So, let's ask ourselves: Do we really want Ramirez, who finished his season with the Class AAA Syracuse Chiefs, to affect how we determine the American League's best pitcher?

But history says Baseball Writers' Association of America voters care how many games a Cy Young candidate has won. No starter has won the award without at least 16 victories. It would behoove Greinke to win three of his final four starts, but he hasn't had a stretch like that since mid-May.

Come to think of it, the Royals haven't had but a handful of those stretches since mid-May.

Cy Young ballots don't come with rules or checklists. Electors are merely instructed to vote for the starter or reliever who, in their opinion, had the best season.

I know this: If Greinke is going to engage in a late push for votes, he's going to do it with his pitching and not his postgame comments. On Tuesday, I asked him how important wins should be in determining the award. Greinke said he wasn't sure.

"It's up to them," he said of the voters. "It's a personal preference."

But don't interpret that as a sign of disinterest in the award. Greinke wants to win and knows how meaningful it would be if he did.

"I'm pretty sure I've got four more games left," he said earlier this week. "I've got to pitch good in those and hopefully get a couple wins. That would make it an easier vote for everyone. I've got to continue to do (what I've been doing)."