Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
For those of you who missed the big news, shortstop Jean Segura and pitchers John Hellweg and Ariel Pena were all traded to the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday.
In exchange, the Los Angeles Angels received starting pitcher Zack Greinke.
Okay, maybe I buried the lead a little bit.
Of course, the headline here is that Greinke, the 2009 American League Cy Young Award winner, is headed to the City of Angels.
So this is the part where I gush for several paragraphs about how amazing Greinke is and how he'll propel your fantasy team to glorious new heights, right?
Not this time.
I'm not here to bash Greinke either, though. Because the truth is, I'm still not sure what to think about the talented young right-hander. The dude's a human Rubik's Cube.
Over the past few weeks, the media has portrayed Greinke as an ace, the crown jewel of the trade deadline, a savior even. Well, I'm here to question that.
Greinke was exceptional in 2009 when he won the Cy Young (16-8, 2.16 ERA, career-high 242 strikeouts). There's no denying that.
But times change. Jon Lester (15-8, 3.41) and Tim Lincecum (15-7, 2.48) were good that year too and look at them now. Lester (5-8, 5.46) is coming off an 11-run outing against the Toronto Blue Jays and Lincecum (4-11, 5.88) has been on the verge of losing his spot in the San Francisco rotation for almost a month now.
While Greinke hasn't fallen quite as far as Lester and Lincecum have, he hasn't come close to repeating his spectacular 2009 season. In 82 starts over the past three years, Greinke has produced a 35-23 record with 504 strikeouts and a 3.88 ERA. Most pitchers would be satisfied with those numbers but if Greinke wants to be considered one of the game's best, he'll have to do better than that.
Compare Greinke's stats to those of perennial Cy Young candidates Roy Halladay, Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander over the last three seasons and you'll see that Greinke's numbers fall woefully short of what it takes to be considered "elite":
- Halladay: 44-21, 2.68 ERA, 504 K's in 78 starts
- Kershaw: 41-21, 3.18, 597 K's in 88 starts
- Verlander: 53-20, 2.80, 615 K's in 88 starts
Greinke's talent hasn't faded since his triumphant 2009 campaign. His slider is as potent as ever and he hasn't lost much zip on his fastball (he's averaging 92.3 mph on his heaters this season, just 0.2 mph below his average fastball in 2011). His strikeout to walk ratio is terrific (4.36:1 this year compared to 3.55:1 for his career) and he's giving up fewer home runs than he did a year ago (one home run every 17.57 innings in 2012 versus one every 9.04 innings last season).
For Greinke, the issue is harnessing that talent and staying consistent over the course of an entire season. For example, after a mesmerizing effort in June (3-0, 1.70 ERA in five starts), Greinke has looked shaky this month, compiling a 6.43 ERA in five appearances.
Every pitcher has an off-day once in a while, so it's understandable that Greinke has allowed five runs or more four times this season. Kershaw has produced the same number of five-run outings in 2012.
There is a difference though. Usually when Kershaw struggles the damage is contained to a simple four or five-run outburst. On the other hand, when Greinke gets rattled, things can turn ugly pretty quick. The Chicago Cubs pulverized Greinke on April 12 (3.2 IP, 9 H, 8 ER) and on May 26, the 28- year-old got destroyed again during a 69-pitch outing in Arizona (10 H, 7 ER).
Luckily for fantasy owners, Greinke rebounded nicely from both of these horrific starts (7 IP, 4 H, 2 ER on April 18 against the Los Angeles Dodgers and then 6 IP, 9 H, 1 ER, 7 Ks versus the Dodgers again on May 31). However, the potential for Greinke to self-destruct at any moment still exists.
Remember, Greinke has a fragile psyche to begin with. He once missed nearly a whole season while dealing with anxiety problems related to the pressure of pitching in the major leagues. Greinke's anxiety issues haven't been as evident in recent years but just before the All-Star break the right-hander slammed a ball into the ground out of frustration during a game and was promptly ejected.
Perhaps the uncertainty of the trade deadline had something to do with Greinke's tantrum and he'll be calmer now that his fate has been decided. Still, it will be interesting to see how Greinke responds to the pressure of playing in a huge media market after spending most of his career in quieter environments in Kansas City and Milwaukee.
Greinke has had success in the past when he has pitched in Anaheim (0-1, 1.02 ERA in three appearances) but now he'll experience the daunting task of facing the Texas Rangers (league-leading .277 batting average) on a regular basis. Despite a 5-1 record in nine career starts against Oakland, the surging A's (tied for third in MLB with 33 HRs this month) could also present a challenge for Greinke down the stretch. For Greinke, the NL Central will feel like Candyland compared to his new division.
In Greinke, the Angels have acquired a quality pitcher, albeit an overrated one, who should bolster a Los Angeles pitching staff that is already among the league's strongest. If you're expecting Greinke to return to his 2009 form now that he's back in the American League, you'll be disappointed. But if 15 wins and an ERA in the high threes is fine by you, Greinke should be able to deliver that pretty easily.