Dumb Arguments against Zack Greinke’s Cy Young Case and Why They’re All Wrong

1. He doesn't have enough wins.

Obviously, the Royals have the worst record in the American League, and Greinke personally possesses the worst individual run support in the AL as calculated by total runs scored in all starts. The bullpen has blown four games in which he's left the game in line for the win. The Yankees bullpen has not blown ANY of CC Sabathia's wins. Absolutely no one in the AL, pitcher or hitter, gives his team a better objective chance to win as monitored by WPA.

WPA (win percentage added):

Greinke 5.30, Verlander 4.25, Hernandez 3.53, Sabathia 2.52, Halladay 1.73

WPA's a little nebulous to me, so here's a breakdown by start of how well each starter kept his team in the game by starts (5+ runs = bad, 0-2 runs = good).

Starts allowing 5+ runs:

Greinke 3, Halladay 6, Verlander 7. Hernandez 7, Sabathia 8

Starts allowing 0-2 runs:

Greinke 21, Hernandez 19, Verlander 15, Sabathia 15, Halladay 14

Wins lost due to blown saves:

Greinke 4, Hernandez 3, Verlander 2, Halladay 1, Sabathia 0

Run support/9 IP:

Greinke 4.71, Hernandez 5.73, Halladay 6.14, Verlander 6.21, Sabathia: 7.80

Being more than a full run behind the next guy in run support with more wins lost to blown saves than anyone is like having to run two extra miles in the marathon more than everyone else in the competition.

2. His W/L % isn't very good.

In addition to receiving the worst run support in the AL, Greinke is also extremely unlucky. He has left eight games trailing, and the Royals were not able to take him off the hook in any of them. In contrast, Felix Hernandez, despite pitching for the team that has scored the least runs in the league, has left twelve games trailing and been taken off the hook on seven occasions, including two in which he got the win. Zack's also the only pitcher in the majors who has more than one outing where he gave up one run in seven or more innings and lost. On top of all that in his 30th start, he received a lead in the first inning for the first time all year.

Leads in the first inning:

Greinke 1, Hernandez 4, Sabathia 5, Verlander 5, Halladay 6

Baseball Prospectus's LUCK index measures the difference between expected W-L (calculated from pitcher performance) to actual W-L record:

Zack Greinke LUCK: -4.08, Team W-L: 59-87

Roy Halladay LUCK: 0.43, Team W-L: 66-80

Felix Hernandez LUCK: 2.99, Team W-L: 76-71

Justin Verlander LUCK: 3.25, Team W-L: 78-68

CC Sabathia LUCK: 6.07, Team W-L: 94-53

Hey, isn't it funny that luck correlates directly to team performance?

No decision breakdowns by games left ahead (A), tied (T), or behind (B):

Greinke: 3 A, 5 T, 0 B, ERA: 1.95

Hernandez: 2 A, 3 T, 5 B, ERA: 2.15

Verlander: 2 A, 2 T, 3 B, ERA: 4.63

Halladay: 1 A, 3T, 1 B, ERA: 2.73

Sabathia: 0 A, 4 T, 3 B, ERA: 3.71

All those other guys have been bailed out by their teams when they've left the game behind, and they all have fewer games blown by the bullpen. Greinke has no such luxuries.

3. His Cy campaign was built on his hot start and he's just been coasting since.

Greinke's pre ASG ERA: 2.12 (best in AL)

Greinke's post ASG ERA: 2.17 (best in AL)

He posted a 2.54 ERA in the month of July and was rewarded with an 0-3 record. So far in September: 0.45 ERA and one win in three starts. Thanks, Royals lack of offense!

4. Felix Hernandez gives up fewer hits and extra base hits, he must be better.

Defense matters. Slow defenders simply can't get to as many balls as faster ones, the same pitcher playing for a minus defense is going to give up more hits (and have singles turned into doubles, doubles into triples) than if he were playing in front of a plus defense.

Seattle's team UZR: +72.5

Kansas City's team UZR: -42.4


Hernandez: .228/.289/.319/.608

Greinke: .232/.274/.345/.619

Sabathia: .234/.290/.366/.656

Verlander: 240/.295/.373/.668

Halladay: .260/.287/.392/.678

Let's put this in context with BABIP, batting average on balls in play, which based on average luck and defense, would be around .300, with higher averages indicating worse luck/defense:


Verlander .325, Halladay .318, Greinke .314, Hernandez .291, Sabathia .282

tRA (expected runs allowed per nine innings in a defense/park neutral environment based on trajectory of batted balls) is interesting too, as it magnifies the effect of defensive differences:

Greinke 2.28, Hernandez 3.24, Verlander 3.25, Halladay 3.29, Sabathia 3.89

And despite the minus defense, Greinke still allows the fewest walks plus hits per inning pitched (WHIP):

Greinke 1.06, Sabathia 1.13, Halladay 1.13, Hernandez 1.15, Verlander 1.17

5. He doesn't play in the AL East, where there is "quality competition."

Neither have the last five AL Cy Young winners, and they still got their awards. Also, merely playing in the AL East doesn't mean you necessarily face the toughest opponents; individual lineups faced can be quantified by Baseball Prospectus's "Opponent Quality OPS."

2008 Cliff Lee: AL Central, opponent quality OPS: .735

2007 CC Sabathia: AL Central, opponent quality OPS: .738

2006 Johan Santana: AL Central, opponent quality OPS: .774

2005 Bartolo Colon: AL West, opponent quality OPS: .747

2004 Johan Santana: AL Central, opponent quality OPS: .752

2009 Opponent quality OPS:

Halladay 0.776, Verlander 0.762, Hernandez 0.758, Greinke 0.753, Sabathia 0.751

The only person who has any right to complain here is Roy Halladay. Wins leader CC Sabathia's opponent quality OPS is actually the lowest of the bunch, despite pitching in the AL East. And Greinke doesn't get to face the Royals, who are easy prey for elite pitchers (or anyone really) looking to lower their ERA.

Let's look at how Verlander, Sabathia, Hernandez, Halladay, and Josh Beckett (who was a Cy contender until he imploded late August) fared against the Royals in 2009. The cumulative record of those five pitchers vs. KC: 6-1, 1.23 ERA.

But wait, what about the Mariners, aren't they even worse at scoring runs than the Royals? Same guys minus Felix and plus Zack, vs. Seattle: 3-4, 3.46 ERA

What about Toronto? Haven't they played almost as badly as the Royals since mid-May? Combined JV, CS, FH, JB, and ZG stats vs. Toronto: 2-3, 7.93 ERA

While sample sizes may be small in these individual cases, Cliff Lee was notably aided in his Cy Young conquest of 2008 by compiling a 5-0 record vs. KC.

6. Justin Verlander has more wins, strikeouts (!), and plays on a winning team.

Despite all the strikeouts he piles up, Verlander has ten games in which he failed to achieve a game score of at least 50 (an average start) even though game score awards points for strikeouts, Greinke only has four such below-average starts.

Number of below-average game score starts:

Greinke 4, Hernandez 7, Sabathia 8, Halladay 8, Verlander 10

7. He pitches in a low-pressure environment because his team is terrible.

It's zero percent Greinke's fault that his team sucks. The Royals are last in the AL in bullpen ERA, save conversion percentage, defensive range, second to last in runs scored, batting average, home runs, and fielding percentage. He's single-handedly saved them from having the worst starting pitching, too. The offense scores few runs, so he pitches close games all the time knowing he better go deep in the game because the bullpen is completely unreliable. Psychologically, it would be far easier to let up and make more mistakes when you play for a bad team like this, and still nobody has been more consistent all year. Plus, being the Cy Young frontrunner all year has to be at least a little bit of pressure, especially coming down the stretch in this last month under national media scrutiny, and Zack's responded by posting a 0.73 ERA over his last five outings. And when the Royals were still above .500 and contending, he posted an 8-1 record and 0.84 ERA over his first ten starts.

8. He can't win because there's simply no historical precedent for a candidate with his type of W/L numbers to win, no matter how deserving he may be.

It's 2009. More information than ever is available to any discerning individual with access to the internet (see all statistics compiled above). A serious journalist would investigate and research all facets before casting their vote, and anyone who has taken more than a cursory look at the numbers has seen that Greinke's been the most dominant and consistent pitcher on the season. Baseball columnists across the nation at multiple major media outlets who have done the research have advocated his candidacy, so why not local BBWAA chapter members? Do they really want to be known as being so backwards that they only see W-L records? Besides, Greinke is the story of the year among AL pitchers, what with all the profiling on his perfect start and comeback from social anxiety disorder. The latest storyline on him is how this great young pitcher has basically been screwed over by his horrible team and is persevering despite the trials known as the Kansas City Royals' awful offense, defense, and bullpen. Writers LOVE a good story, they love them even more than wins because they live for good stories, and Zack Greinke's is epic.

This FanPost was written by a member of the Royals Review community. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the editors and writers of this site.