No. 3) Zack Greinke 2009
One of the first sabermetrics Cy Young winners, Zack Greinke showed that even bad teams can have the best pitcher in the game. Despite having fewer wins than the other AL hurlers to finish in the top-five, Greinke clearly boasted the best overall numbers. It showed, as he took 25 of the available 28 first-place votes.
The right-hander put up a minuscule ERA (2.16) and WHIP (1.07). He also struck out 242 batters en route to a ridiculous 205 ERA+. Greinke’s ERA, WHIP, ERA+ and FIP (2.33) all led the league. His 10.4 WAR, according to Baseball Reference, is easily the best for a pitcher in a single season in Royals history.
He came back down to earth in 2010 before an offseason trade to Milwaukee prior to the 2011 season. His 2009 season—in a way—helped the Kansas City Royals win the 2015 World Series. Even with his subpar 2010 campaign, trading Greinke earned the Royals a king’s ransom from the Brewers. Two of the players sent to Kansas City—Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar—went on to win ALCS MVP honors, while another—Jake Odorizzi—helped bring James Shields and Davis to the Royals.
In that way, Greinke made a world of difference to the Kansas City Royals organization. The former first-round pick brought the spotlight to the Boys in Blue even when the team was mired in one of the worst stretches in baseball history. He not only brought excitement to the club during trying times, but also his value earned the Kansas City Royals two of the core pieces of their championship group. Not a bad legacy to leave behind.