The Greinke Grind

It was a strangely cold day, in the middle of last December when the Royals lost Zack Greinke to the Milwaukee Brewers. It wasn’t so much that we felt empty after the trade, it was actually more of an overall relief- quite possibly, the last piece of the Royals dark side that finally got pulled from under rug. It was then we felt we could actually begin a new day…so we did.  The last resemblance of the past, out the window.

Here we are now.

In the midst of the youth upsurge. A moment in time filled with such accepted anxiety. Trust in this team is a hill that’s not as hard to climb as years past. For the first time in what seems like forever, we can physically see the picture right in front of our eyes. We can see exactly where our trust is headed and that’s the way it should be.

The Greinke trade was signed, sealed, and delivered. He was shipped up north, ever so quickly, to a team in the National League with a similar history as KC. Only more appealing to a young mans eyes because of change and recent, better than before success. Milwaukee receives the former Cy Young winner and a shortstop ante. Kansas City receives a hefty and simultaneously small, care package.

The average Royals fan wanted a big name slugger as far as their shy baseball minds could reach. Milwaukee was mentioned…Ryan Braun came to mind.

The more involved baseball minds knew better. They knew Greinke was the biggest name in the market, and the Royals would find a way to make plural out of singular.

Media shattering, superstar opposition has yet to be traded to Kansas City in fair, even swap.

The other route was indeed taken, and Dayton Moore brought in a shovel full of promising youth to add to the pile…a pile of youth slowly making an art form of mountainous camaraderie. East coast news regulators see Kansas City differently now-West coast, much the same. At one time a taste and smell of despicable Midwest slums; the Royals are now viewed as a semi professional operation with a gleam of youth. The brightest light in years, one for all to see.

The Kansas City Royals are back in positive conversation. Not as much on the pro side as we would like, but the overall picture is much more photogenic: a prettier girl to swing across the dance floor.

The Royals feel that they really got what they were looking for…a team that shunned the big name. Instead of taking your most talented player and trading him for his superstar market value, a move was made to build more.

Easily exploited as the poorest team in baseball (or in other words, least resourceful), the Royals had the lowest payroll going into the season, and the highest upside. That is all this front office needed to hear to be persuaded. This move was a good one in their eyes.

Each season some new name or names walk through the clubhouse door. The Royals wearing the soggiest jacket in baseball expectedly brought in the mediocre pair of free agent residue. Jeff Francoeur and Melky Cabrera arrived. The fans were excited for a few days. The Royals win.

Surprisingly, the free agent acquisitions turned out to be ok. Money is turning green instead of antiqued in this circumstance, which is a great relief.

Free agents aside, lets examine the big trade.

Below you will see the names of each player involved in the trade, and his numbers in the current 2011 season. Also make note of the current record of each team.

Brewers (26-23, third NL Central) get:

Name IP W L ERA SO BB Opp avg
Zack Greinke 21 2 1 6.43 29 2 .282 

 

 

Name AB AVG H HR RBI SO BB OBP
Betancourt 163 .227 37 3 17 20 7 .256

Royals (22-25, third AL Central) get:

Name AB AVG H HR RBI SO BB OBP
Escobar 167 .228 38 0 12 24 9 .266
Cain (AAA) 143 .294 42 3 17 35 11 .361

 

Name IP W L ERA SO BB Opp avg
Jeffress (MLB) 15.1 1 1 4.70 13 11 .222
Odorizzi (wilm) 43.1 4 0 2.28 59 9 .223

So far, it’s a pretty cloudy picture on who got the best deal here. There are so many factors you can really put into it, but after a look at these numbers, you’d have to guess the Royals actually came out on top. Right?

Escobar hasn’t fooled anybody. He can’t hit. He will never be able to hit. Not at this level. He is the essential example of a Venezuelan shortstop that has quite possibly the best defensive skills in the game but forgot his bat along the way. You can’t really blame Escobar for the Royals record. Sure a lot of our losses fell victim to lack of offensive production, but with Escobar toward the bottom of the order, there is usually no one on base for him to drive in anyway. Despite no bat game, he has without a doubt saved us with his glove more than he has hurt us offensively.

Lorenzo Cain is a different story. We haven’t seen him play in a Royals uniform yet. We have heard the scouting reports on speed, we know he can command center field, and after looking at his AAA numbers, he’s not too bad at the plate either (which was a concern when we originally traded for him). He’s hit for the cycle; he holds a decent on base percentage. He still strikes out a lot, which muddies the waters a bit. Only time can tell. More ups than downs.

Jeremy Jeffress has all the tools to be a successful pitcher in baseball. His only weakness is that he has yet to understand you have to use your mind as a pitcher. Sure, in AAA he can get by on his physical skills, but in the majors he his going to have numbers similar to what he has posted so far- a so-so record with a lot of hits and runs given up. He reminds me of Edwin Jackson, and if he can start to pitch mentally AND physically, he will be a huge threat. Until then, you’ll find him in AAA.

Jake Odorizzi is a big time stud. He is a Jason Marquis type of pitcher, keeps the ball down, and has three to four solid out pitches. Still needs some time to sharpen up, but he is raveling out gem after gem each time he takes the hill. He is another reason our youth is so exciting and we should expect to see him next year.

For the Brewers, Yuni Betancourt is still the same old Yuni.

Betancourt and Escobar are identical. The only difference is that Escobar has a better glove by two or three points, and Betancourt has a better bat by two to three points. Not enough to really change the trade on either side of the coin, so the swap made sense. No harm, no foul.

And then Donald Zackary Greinke…

His 2011 numbers are still too young to analyze. The injury has healed and he’s getting back with the motions. The ERA doesn’t scare me at this point, but one area that stands out is the strike out to walk ratio. This is the Greinke we came to love. With as many free bases as the Royals give up this year due to walks, this is one reason we can all say we miss Zack Greinke. Throughout his career, he has learned  the significance of forcing batters to work. The concept that nothing comes easy. No free passes. Twenty-nine strikeouts. Two walks.

So maybe at the end of the day, we can say the Royals won the trade.  The stats say so. The gold glove plays say so. The cycle says so. The minor league dominance says so.

But don’t forget Zack Greinke. The Milwaukee Brewers gave up four players with tremendous upside (a big risk in many front office minds). In return they filled their vacancy at shortstop, and got a former Cy Young winner- a pitcher that has grown up… maybe not in a press interview, but on the mound.

These days on the field, you know what to expect from Zack Greinke…

Exceptional talent paired with an actual game plan. A Zack Greinke the Royals barely knew. The five star, professional pitcher you could finally rely on, appearance after appearance…a glorified treasure in major league baseball.

Something the Royals no longer have.

And that envy… that so called treasure… is exactly what hooked the Milwaukee Brewers.

 

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