Royals’ Greinke wins AL Cy Young; Verlander finishes third
By Ronald Blum
— Zack Greinke won the American League Cy Young Award on Tuesday, easily beating out Felix Hernandez after a spectacular season short on wins but long on domination.
Greinke went 16-8 with a major league-low 2.16 ERA for the Kansas City Royals. Hernandez was 19-5 with a 2.49 ERA for the Seattle Mariners.
Greinke received 25 of 28 first-place votes and three seconds for 134 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Hernandez drew two firsts, 23 seconds and one third for 80 points.
“I thought it was going to be real close between the two of us,” Greinke said.
Detroit’s Justin Verlander was third with the remaining first-place vote and nine thirds for 14 points. He was followed by the Yankees’ CC Sabathia with 13 points and Toronto’s Roy Halladay with 11 points.
The NL winner will be announced Thursday.
Naturally shy, Greinke quit baseball for six weeks in 2006 because of what was diagnosed as a social anxiety disorder. He welcomed the award, mostly.
“There’s a lot of positive to it and a lot of negative to it — not a lot but some,” he said during a telephone conference call. “I really don’t like having a bunch of attention.”
Even before winning, this was sure to be a big week for Greinke. He is getting married on Saturday to high school girlfriend Emily Kuchar, a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader.
Greinke’s ERA was the lowest in the AL since Pedro Martinez’s 1.74 ERA in 2000 and his 242 strikeouts were second in the league behind Verlander.
It was quite a turnaround for the 26-year-old right-hander, who was the sixth overall pick in the 2002 amateur draft but led the AL in losses in 2005 when he went 5-17.
He left spring training in February 2006 and went home to Florida. He started working out in the minors about six weeks later and returned to the majors in late September.
Greinke was 7-7 the following year and 13-10 in 2008 before his breakout season. After speaking with a pair of pitchers on opposing teams — he wouldn’t identify them — he credited an improved mental approach in which he put all his focus on the pitch he was throwing.
His victory total matched that of Arizona’s Brandon Webb three years ago for the fewest by a starting pitcher to win a Cy Young Award in a non-shortened season and was the fewest by an AL starter to win in a full-length season.
Steve Carlton was the only Cy Young Award winner who pitched for a club that was worse. The Hall of Fame lefty was an astounding 27-10 with a 1.97 ERA for the 1972 Philadelphia Phillies, who went 59-97.
Kansas City, which tied for last place in the AL Central at 65-97, scored just 13 runs in his eight losses and 21 runs in his nine no-decisions. He failed to get a victory in six starts in which he allowed one run or none.
He was particularly sharp at the start and finish, going 5-0 with a 0.50 ERA in April and 5-0 with a 1.29 ERA in his last eight starts. He didn’t allow any runs in his first three starts and any earned runs in his first four, and his 0.84 ERA through 10 starts was the first below 1.00 in the major leagues since Juan Marichal’s 0.55 in 1966.
He struck out 15 over eight innings against Cleveland on Aug. 25, then followed five days later by pitching a one-hitter at Seattle. After Kenji Johjima’s soft second-inning single, Greinke retired his final 22 batters.
Greinke, who agreed to a $38 million, four-year contract last winter, receives a $100,000 bonus for winning.
The first-place votes for Hernandez came from Chris Assenheimer of The Chronicle-Telegram in Elyria, Ohio, and Mark Feinsand of the Daily News in New York. Verlander’s first-place vote was cast by Steve Kornacki of Booth Newspapers in Michigan.