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Thursday, February 20, 2020

‘One in 10 million’: An oral history of Zack Greinke’s years with the Royals

Anderson: We were playing the Tigers. Dmitri Young was at the plate. He started him up with a fastball, 93 or 94. Strike one. And the next pitch was this curveball that came popping out of his hand. It squirted out and up and was so slow, and it had Dmitri completely fooled and it comes into the strike zone. Dmitri has the bat on his shoulder, and he’s kind of chuckling as he peeks into our dugout on the first-base side like, “What was that?” While he’s doing that, I’m leaning forward and peeking at the miles per hour in the stadium, and it was 50. I’m not kidding you. It wasn’t 51, it wasn’t 49, it was 50.

Gobble: I think he did that against the Yankees, too.

Anderson: I sat back and was like, “This kid’s on another planet.”

John Buck, catcher: I remember Vladimir Guerrero had hit us around on a couple things, and we’d thrown the kitchen sink at him. Zack was like, “I’m going to throw a BP fastball down the middle because I think if I put it right down the middle, he’ll overswing on it,” which he did. He whipped it foul out of the stadium left, but it didn’t scare Zack. Then he throws a good, firm fastball and elevates it a little bit and got him. I don’t know, it’s weird. Throwing a BP fastball and seeing what Vladimir Guerrero is going to do with that — in a real-time game. We’re talking about in The Show.

Allard Baird, general manager (2000-06): He could add or subtract, by design, fairly often to the mile per hour, which is pretty special.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 20, 2020 at 05:43 AM | 39 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: zack greinke

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   1. Itchy Row Posted: February 20, 2020 at 11:14 AM (#5925556)
I can only see the Mark Teahen story about his dog, but that sounds like pure Greinke.
   2. bbmck Posted: February 20, 2020 at 11:32 AM (#5925564)
So someone like Greinke is born in the United States every 2.5 years.
   3. CFBF's Overflowing Pathos Posted: February 20, 2020 at 12:19 PM (#5925587)
Maier: Zack was in the video room. He was preparing for his next start. He was very advanced with the scouting reports and using the video. He had a heat map pulled up. As hitters, we didn’t really know what that was. Long story short, a hitter walked in. It was like, “Zack, what are you looking at?” He said, “I’m looking at their heat maps, their ‘nitro zones’ — where I need to stay away from, damage zones — but don’t worry, you don’t have one of those.” That’s what he told another hitter.
   4. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: February 20, 2020 at 12:34 PM (#5925599)
He was very advanced with the scouting reports and using the video. He had a heat map pulled up. As hitters, we didn’t really know what that was.
Very advanced?? They had batters' heat maps on the backs of 1987 Fleer, for crying out loud.
   5. Itchy Row Posted: February 20, 2020 at 12:45 PM (#5925609)
Good luck finding Miguel Cabrera's 1987 Fleer.
   6. Crispix Attacksel Rios Posted: February 20, 2020 at 12:57 PM (#5925618)
Teahen: During our time with the Royals, we had more downs than ups. A veteran guy on our team was holding court and just going off. He made some comment that he was for sure the best player in the room and how he was being treated unfairly.

Davies: The veteran player was doing well at the time, and we weren’t as a team. It was more, “I’m carrying you guys, why can’t you do this?” without any respect to everyone else. I mean, we were all trying.

Teahen: Everyone in the room was thinking, “This guy’s full of crap,” but nobody would say it. Zack doesn’t speak up in team meetings much. He doesn’t like to bring a whole lot of attention to himself. But I remember him standing up and being like, “Why are we all listening to this?” … He was like, “This is ridiculous.” And if I remember right, he just kind of walked out of the room.

Davies: Zack was the only one who got up and said what everyone else was thinking.


This is surprisingly NOT enough information to identify the player. Plenty of veterans on bad Royals teams who may have thought they were carrying the team but actually were not.
   7. Itchy Row Posted: February 20, 2020 at 01:05 PM (#5925622)
Sounds like Jose Guillen.
   8. Ziggy: social distancing since 1980 Posted: February 20, 2020 at 01:22 PM (#5925631)
He's a weird guy, but Greinke grows on you. I've developed quite a lot of respect for him over the years. And he's also quietly closing in on "definitely a hall of famer" territory, a fact that might be obscured by the peripatetic nature of his career. In some ways he reminds me of Gaylord Perry. Perry stayed with the Giants longer than Greinke did with the Royals, but they both had a longish stretch with their original teams, followed by changing teams every couple years. Perry had a normal peak and then a second Cy Young award much later. Greinke's aging pattern has been less usual, but he also has two widely-separated great seasons. (Perry's second CYY was less impressive than Greinke's 2015 second-place finish, but it probably didn't seem that way to the voters of the day.)
   9. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 20, 2020 at 01:29 PM (#5925634)
Yea, its definitely Jose Guillen. He actually went public, calling his teammates "babies" at one point.
   10. asinwreck Posted: February 20, 2020 at 02:06 PM (#5925654)
I would watch a My Dinner with Andre remake with Greinke and Art Stewart talking scouting.
   11. Best Dressed Chicken in Town Posted: February 20, 2020 at 02:16 PM (#5925662)
he's also quietly closing in on "definitely a hall of famer" territory

That can't be right. Mitchel Lichtman told us all there's absolutely no reason to be interested in him as a prospect.
   12. Best Dressed Chicken in Town Posted: February 20, 2020 at 02:21 PM (#5925668)
I wonder if Zack is still upset about Brad Pitt's breakup with Jennifer Aniston.
   13. Zach Posted: February 20, 2020 at 05:09 PM (#5925730)
It's a minor beef in the big scheme of things, but can we stop entitling every group interview "XXX: An Oral History of Y"?

We're not talking about the Dust Bowl here.
   14. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: February 20, 2020 at 05:37 PM (#5925732)
It's a minor beef in the big scheme of things, but can we stop entitling every group interview "XXX: An Oral History of Y"?
I dunno, I vastly prefer the oral histories to the anal histories.
   15. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: February 20, 2020 at 05:43 PM (#5925736)
XXX: An Oral History of Option J
   16. JimMusComp likes Billy Eppler.... Posted: February 20, 2020 at 09:47 PM (#5925763)
XXX: An Oral History of Option J


If this isn’t for Ms. Verlander or to go old school and match the OG post, the former Ms. Benson, I’m not sure I’m interested.

   17. Nasty Nate Posted: February 20, 2020 at 10:33 PM (#5925766)
"Minor Beef: An Oral History of Hating 'Oral History' in Headlines"
   18. villageidiom Posted: February 20, 2020 at 10:42 PM (#5925767)
"Minor Beef: An Oral History of Hating 'Oral History' in Headlines"

villageidiom: So there was this one day we were talking about Zack Greinke and his general awesomeness. Then Zach walks in to the thread and, out of nowhere, goes off on the "Oral History" concept. Like, I'm not even sure he was aware people were talking before he showed up. I was just sitting in the corner watching the whole thing unfold.
   19. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: February 21, 2020 at 04:52 AM (#5925790)
You won't believe #69!
   20. Fernigal McGunnigle Posted: February 21, 2020 at 08:43 AM (#5925803)
And he's also quietly closing in on "definitely a hall of famer" territory, a fact that might be obscured by the peripatetic nature of his career.
His two great years were 6 years apart, and he followed them up with seasons with an ERA+ of 100 and 102. I think that if he'd put his great years closer together and surrounded them with his very good years, then there would've been a stretch in which people thought of him as the best 2 or 3 pitchers in baseball. Then add to that a lot of above average seasons and you have a more traditional Hall of Fame narrative.
   21. Rally Posted: February 21, 2020 at 08:57 AM (#5925805)
That can't be right. Mitchel Lichtman told us all there's absolutely no reason to be interested in him as a prospect.


Did MGL have some kind of epic memorable quote on Greinke before he established himself? I have no recollection and can't find it with a google search.

It can't be as epic as David Cameron's take on Robinson Cano:

“I’ve seen Cano play a lot, and I’m not even sure he’d be a productive Triple-A player. Let’s start with his defense; it’s brutal. He has terrible footwork and simply lacks any kind of instincts around the bag. There’s no way you want him playing up the middle. He might have the raw speed to not be awful in left field, but that’s about as kind as I can be regarding his glove work. Offensively, he’s a fastball hitter. He sits dead red on every pitch and waits for a mistake. Any good breaking ball or off-speed pitch will have him out in front. He’s mostly a gap hitter, lacking the power to drive the ball consistently over the wall. To add insult to injury, he’s also a terrible base runner.

In his prime, I think he could hit .280/.320/.400 while playing awful defense. Yippee.”
   22. bbmck Posted: February 21, 2020 at 10:03 AM (#5925821)
Steve Carlton Age 24-37: 3773 IP, 255-161, 124 ERA+, 72.8 pitWAR, 41.1 pitWAA
Zack Greinke Age 36+: 901 IP, 50-38, 122 ERA+, 6.1 pitWAR, -0.5 pitWAA

Carlton wins the Cy Young each of the 4 times he leads the league in wins and has nearly another 1500 IP and is "only" left off 20 ballots. But excluding Carlton's 25 IP, 156 ERA+ debut season the highest ERA+ between the two:

222 - Greinke 9.1 WAR, 222.2 IP
205 - Greinke 10.4, 229.1
182 - Carlton 12.1, 346.1
164 - Carlton 6.9, 236.1
162 - Carlton 10.2, 304

154 - Greinke 5.6, 208.2
153 - Carlton 5.9, 283
151 - Carlton 5.5, 190 (strike)
147 - Greinke 5.7, 202.1

Carlton - 126, 119, 118...
Greinke - 135, 131, 129...

Greinke unlikely to catch Carlton in career WAR 90.2 to 71.7 or pitching WAR 84.1 to 66.7 and in the event he even gets close only PEDs could keep Greinke out of the Hall. But Greinke is quite likely to have a career that is spread over more years because of changes in starting pitcher usage that compares pretty well to Carlton's best 14 years.
   23. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: February 21, 2020 at 12:10 PM (#5925872)
It can't be as epic as David Cameron's take on Robinson Cano:

“I’ve seen Cano play a lot, and I’m not even sure he’d be a productive Triple-A player. Let’s start with his defense; it’s brutal. He has terrible footwork and simply lacks any kind of instincts around the bag. There’s no way you want him playing up the middle. He might have the raw speed to not be awful in left field, but that’s about as kind as I can be regarding his glove work. Offensively, he’s a fastball hitter. He sits dead red on every pitch and waits for a mistake. Any good breaking ball or off-speed pitch will have him out in front. He’s mostly a gap hitter, lacking the power to drive the ball consistently over the wall. To add insult to injury, he’s also a terrible base runner.

In his prime, I think he could hit .280/.320/.400 while playing awful defense. Yippee.”


To be fair, that was only the 6th best hot take on Cano from prospect gurus.
   24. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: February 21, 2020 at 12:32 PM (#5925881)
I dunno, I vastly prefer the oral histories to the anal histories.


What do you have against coprolites?
   25. Itchy Row Posted: February 21, 2020 at 12:36 PM (#5925882)
Orel histories are just Tommy Lasorda screaming about 1988, which is much better than Tommy screaming about his own oral history.
   26. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: February 21, 2020 at 01:17 PM (#5925900)
I still remember Rob Neyer's take on Alfonso Soriano:

D'Angelo Jimenez, who missed most of last year after breaking his neck in a car accident, is a better player than Soriano. He's always been a better player than Soriano, although he doesn't impress the scouts like Soriano does. He hasn't hit particularly well this spring, but if he's healthy, he should be the Yankees' second baseman rather than Soriano or Knoblauch.

That's not going to happen, though, because even intelligent franchises occasionally worship at the altar of numbers that don't count.


I'm being a little hard on Neyer here, since he was talking about Soriano's potential in 2001, and the projections he cited for Soriano were very close to how he actually performed that season. But it still was not a great take.
   27. Best Dressed Chicken in Town Posted: February 21, 2020 at 01:20 PM (#5925902)
Did MGL have some kind of epic memorable quote on Greinke before he established himself?

I don't think it was epic, and maybe only memorable to me. I haven't looked for it again. It was just something along the lines of, he'd done his translations of Greinke's minor league numbers and couldn't understand the fuss. The wording I recall, which is probably wrong because it's been 15+ years(!), was that there was no reason to consider him a good prospect.
   28. Ziggy: social distancing since 1980 Posted: February 21, 2020 at 02:16 PM (#5925913)
Raise your hand if you've ever been very wrong about a prospect.

*raises hand*

This stuff is difficult. We all blow it sometimes.
   29. DanG Posted: February 21, 2020 at 02:37 PM (#5925916)
Pitching WAR leaders among SP debuting 1993+:

Player            WAR WAAERA+   SO   W   L     IP
Justin Verlander 71.4 43.7  129 3006 225 129 2982.0
Zack Greinke     66.7 41.6  125 2622 205 123 2872.0
Clayton Kershaw  65.4 47.3  157 2464 169  74 2274.2
Roy Halladay     65.4 40.4  131 2117 203 105 2749.1
CC Sabathia      62.5 29.0  116 3093 251 161 3577.1
Andy Pettitte    60.6 29.8  117 2448 256 153 3316.0
Mark Buehrle     60.1 29.4  117 1870 214 160 3283.1
Cole Hamels      58.7 36.7  123 2558 163 121 2694.2
Max Scherzer     58.7 39.1  132 2692 170  89 2290.0
Tim Hudson       56.8 30.0  120 2080 222 133 3126.2
Johan Santana    51.1 32.8  136 1988 139  78 2025.2
Felix Hernandez  50.2 24.8  117 2524 169 136 2729.2
Roy Oswalt       49.9 32.3  127 1852 163 102 2245.1
Bartolo Colon    48.0 16.2  106 2535 247 188 3461.2
Jon Lester       45.9 23.2  120 2355 190 108 2537.2
Chris Sale       45.4 30.0  140 2007 109  73 1629.2 
   30. Der-K's emotional investment is way up Posted: February 21, 2020 at 02:37 PM (#5925917)
I look at it like this - the median outcome, in some sense, is to be wrong. You're either too low or too high. I just want to identify which calls I care about and be directionally right on those, relative to consensus, more often than not.
   31. villageidiom Posted: February 21, 2020 at 02:40 PM (#5925918)
Old thread, containing the MGL quote paraphrased above, plus the following:
Now, I understand some have talked about how he adds a little here, takes off a little there, because he’s such a smart pitcher. I haven’t seen that guy. I’ve seen a guy who’ll follow up a straight 92-MPH fastball with a straight 85-MPH, which gets roped into the gap. I’ve also seen a guy follow the same game plan over and over again, even though the game plan is not successful.

Although confidence is good, too much confidence at a young age is better described as arrogance. If the confounded Greinke wants to be successful, he needs to wake up and make some adjustments.
I have seen him pitch a half dozen times this year and I would agree with that assessment. He seems to throw up a ton of "cookies" and does not appear to me to know how to "pitch." I have discussed this with Rob Neyer a few times and Rob says that Greinke is known as an extremely savvy pitcher. Doesn't look that way to me but who knows. He knows Greinke and the organization a lot better than I do.
I don't think he'll ever have much of a career, he doesn't have the K rates for it, but I don't think he'll be a complete bust either.
Greinke may turn out to be a bust, but it's way too early to say that for sure. His chances would be better if he was with an organization that showed any clue of how to manage young talent.
   32. ajnrules Posted: February 21, 2020 at 03:31 PM (#5925932)
Very advanced?? They had batters' heat maps on the backs of 1987 Fleer, for crying out loud.

That's one thing I feel like Fleer doesn't get enough credit for, putting different splits on the back of their cards in the late 1980s. Some of them weren't really worthwhile such as the day/night and home/road splits in 1988 or the first/second half splits in 1989. However, they had the heat maps in 1987, and may have been the first set to put OBP on the cards in 1990.
   33. Tom Nawrocki Posted: February 21, 2020 at 03:45 PM (#5925934)
The cutest thing about that is that MGL acknowledges that Greinke is known as a very smart pitcher, yet still assumes that he, MGL, knows more about how to pitch than Greinke does.
   34. dlf Posted: February 21, 2020 at 04:15 PM (#5925941)
MGL's newest book, published last month, promises to lower your golf score by 4 to 5 strokes without even practicing!The Lazy Person's Guide to Great Golf
   35. villageidiom Posted: February 21, 2020 at 04:24 PM (#5925943)
yet still assumes that he, MGL, knows more about how to pitch than Greinke does.
?? In that passage MGL readily admits other people know Greinke better than he does.
   36. Ziggy: social distancing since 1980 Posted: February 21, 2020 at 05:04 PM (#5925953)
Yeah, the quotes in 31 make MGL sound pretty good. He's not high on Greinke, but recognizes and respects Neyer's expertise. Measured in his criticism. He got Greinke wrong, but, as I said before, we all miss on prospects all the time. And if you're going to be wrong about a prospect, being wrong in the way indicated in 31 is the way to do it.
   37. Best Dressed Chicken in Town Posted: February 21, 2020 at 08:06 PM (#5925965)
I'll assume that's the thread I was thinking of, though none of the quoted parts sound quite like what I thought I remembered. Of course prospecting is hard. But MGL had a tendency on this site to act very certain about things that one couldn't possibly be so certain about. I may have conflated some other comment he made with his Greinke assessment.
   38. Best Dressed Chicken in Town Posted: February 21, 2020 at 08:12 PM (#5925967)
I looked at the old thread. Not everything quoted in 31 was written by MGL (that was not clear to me before reading the thread). I think this part is probably what I (sort of) remembered:

If you knew nothing else about Greinke but his numbers, he would look like a bad pitcher who had a lucky rokie year (last year). His MLE's were not good and of course, his ERA, DIPS ERA, and ERC (component ERA) are all terrible this year. That is one reason why I suspect that he is simply a bust. Honestly, when I watch him, I don't see any great "stuff" either...
   39. Walt Davis Posted: February 21, 2020 at 08:46 PM (#5925970)
Tommy screaming about his own oral history.

I assume LaSorda's oral history is primarily lasagna and meatball subs ... which sounds pretty good right about now.

On MGL and Greinke: That quoted thread was from 2005. He did get knocked around in 2005 and MGL might well have seen what he said he'd seen. By the end of that season, he was also a pitcher with 320 IP and a 5.9 K/9 which wasn't going to be good enough to be a top pitcher. That offseason he had some mental health issues, went on the IL then was sent to AA where he didn't pitch particularly well. In 2007, after 7 starts and a 5.71 ERA, he was sent to the pen. His first dozen or so relief appearances weren't particularly promising either, then he got things together, returned to the rotation in late Aug and finished the season with 7 starts and a 1.85 ERA and finally we saw Greinke.

The pitcher MGL was talking about was not going to be a successful MLB pitcher. In terms of mental health (which MGL couldn't have known about) and baseball, Greinke took a while to get things worked out. And I seriously doubt that Rob Neyer (or anybody else) was expecting him to increase his K-rate by about 3/9 much less lead the league in 2011 with a 10.5/9 -- even if they saw the potential for him to be a poor man's Maddux. About the worst I think you can say about MGL's take there is that he didn't account enough for Greinke still being only 21 at the time. Maddux got knocked around at 21 too (with the same 5.8 K/9 although that looked better in those days) and, although good, was still 5 years away from becoming MADDUX.

I don't know if it was before or after this but at some point I think MGL came around a bit on pitchers. I recall he did an analysis (probably one of his quick ones) that suggested with pitchers, it's not so much age as experience and that they usually peaked around 5 years of experience (assuming they made it that far). That MGL might have given greater consideration to the idea that Greinke was a pitcher that would figure things out in time ... maybe that's common to this "type" of pitcher. (I'm not sure this "type" of pitcher even sees the majors at 20-21 these days.)

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