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Greinke Returns Part 1: I Guess We're Supposed to be Excited

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So Zack Greinke has begun the long road back to pitching for the worst franchise of the decade. Granted, we don't really know why the kid ever left, but all indications point to something between generalized anxiety and depression, or something. The modus operandi appears to be non-disclosure, which I guess we'll have to accept:

"The main thing is, I just have a tough time around people for the most part," he said. "I've always had a problem with people but, lately, it just got worse and worse to the point where I'm out in the field and around a bunch of people, I can't really leave. I'm stuck in the situation and I get a lot of anxiety doing it. And then I get uncomfortable with what I'm doing because it was messing with my pitching. Because I was constantly worried about other stuff than pitching and I couldn't do anything. It just would control my life."

The good news is that Greinke has always had the correct priorities:

"It's to the point where it caused problems with my girlfriend because she knows baseball is more important than her. I say, 'Hey, I'm sorry. I love the game that much. You're not even close to being No. 1 -- that's how much I love baseball. I couldn't live without it.' "
Que?

You love the generalized concept of a sport more than a person?

To each his own. Know your role Emily, and good luck with your continuing cheerleading career.

Beyond the double-level of psycho-babble (my interpretation of his babble-speak) its not the worst thing in the world that Greinke took some time off. He's not through the injury nexus yet, and the Royals have started him relentlessly the last two seasons (although they have kept his pitch counts down). Last season, as the months wore on, the Royals sent him to the mound time after time, letting him make meaningless start after meaningless start. Given the luck of the franchise, I'm shocked he hasn't had Tommy John surgery yet. He's 22 and already the owner of 328 Major League Innings.

The ultimate meaning and promise of those innings remains unclear. His career ERA is 4.99, which isn't bad, especially in the American League with one of the worst defenses in the game behind him, but also isn't groundbreaking. He's allowed 49 career homers, and has never had anything near a dominating K-rate. He's a slight flyball pitcher with low to moderate strikeout potential and low walks. Its not a slam dunk model for success, but its also not without its merits.

Outside the Royals community, the consensus seems to be that Greinke was a little over-praised after 2004 (3.94 ERA) but not likely to stay as bad as he was in 2005. Actually, the average of the two is about at his career 4.99 mark.

According to Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA projection system, he's actually not a good bet to top 2004 ever again, which is astonishing given how highly regarded he was by the system just a year before.

"His profile is so unique that trying to project his future is a fool's errand, although the fact that PECOTA projects a collapse rate of 0% is astonishing for a young pitcher. All we can say is that in the past 30 years, the pitcher Greinke best compares to as a rookie, both statistically and stylistically, is Saberhagen. As a sophomore, Saberhagen won the Cy Young Award."- Baseball Prospectus 2005

Now, Greinke looks like a pitcher capable of churning out an ERA in the 4.00s (with stable control and offseting mild gopher tendency) for the rest of the decade.

Seems like Scott Elarton Part II to me, only younger and with a chance for improvement. Which is good, but its also not stopping traffic in Detroit because of nervous drivers wondering about the status of 4th place.

Plus, we've gotta keep his arb clock moving as fast as possible.

Then again, maybe the Royals will finally find a way to harness his creativity, gauche, and control, instead of trying to turn him into a fastball throwing zombie. If anyone could ever benefit from a summer with Greg Maddox or Tom Glavine, its Greinke.

The Royals have done well however in not throwing a slightly petulant early burnout under the bus, which should be duly credited. Perhaps our only true option, regarding both Greinke's mind and performance, is to hope for the best.