Grading the 2023 KC Royals: Pitcher Zack Greinke ends season on high notes

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Welcome back to our Kings of Kauffman offseason series analyzing the 2023 performances of various KC Royals players. Today, we take a look at the veteran himself Zack Greinke.

The KC Royals were not extremely active on the free agent market last season, but their re-signing veteran starter Zack Greinke for one more year was one of the bigger moves. Greinke, now 40 years old, ended the 2022 season as the Royals best and most consistent starter. The 26-start season came with a 3.68 ERA, 4.03 FIP, and 20 years after the franchise drafted a kid from Apopka, Florida. A great stroy all on its own.

The sequel to Zack Greinke's KC Royals return was not as good as the first chapter.

Greinke started the season on the mound, with rookie manager Matt Quatraro giving the 19-year veteran the nod on Opening Day. That game and the two following were losses for Greinke, but it was hard to be mad at the Royals starter. After all, the Kansas City batters recorded two runs across those three games and failed to give Greinke run support.

Sadly, that trend would change for the worse in late April. A seven-run outing on April 27 followed by two separate four-run games swung Greinke's pendulum in the negative direction. That pendulum kept swinging when he had a stellar month of May, only to be followed by a subpar June. Injuries limited him to three starts in July, where he had a 7.53 ERA and 7.72 FIP. Those midseason struggles cast doubt on Greinke's future in 2023 and especially beyond.

Once again, the pendulum swung back, and Greinke had a bounceback in August. Cole Ragans rightfully filled the headlines that month, but Greinke's quiet comeback was a welcome moment.

Greinke's September did not represent a volatile swing, but rather a settleback into form. Sure, a 3.91 ERA and 3.82 FIP in six games is not elite, but it was Greinke looking like Greinke once again. His best moment that month was, by far, his finale at Kauffman Stadium.

Greinke started the game in front of 20,662 Royals fans on the season's final day. Neither the Royals nor the visiting Yankees had anything to play for, but that made this start all the more special. Greinke made the start on four days of rest, giving up only two runs in five innings pitched. He walked two batters and struck out another two. It was a near-quality start that Royals fans have grown accustomed to from Greinke in recent seasons.

The standing ovation in Kauffman really swayed the opinion that Greinke is done after 2023. His recognizing every corner of The K, breaking a smile, and not seeming all about business for that brief moment spoke volumes. It is a beautiful snapshot in Royals history, and one that would be frankly awkward to redo if Greinke decided to return in 2024.

With all that said, here is how Greinke's stats looked after the 2023 season:

2-15, 30 G, 27 GS, 142 1/3 IP, 5.06 ERA, 4.75 FIP, 1.1 fWAR

Here are some advanced numbers to know:

6.13 K/9, 1.45 BB/9, 38% hard-hit rate, .32 WPA

What grade should Zack Greinke get for his 2023 season?

I wish this were a success story of a season. I wish we could point to 2023 as the season where Greinke kept it together for one last run and still looked like a top starter. The sad fact is he did not. From March 30 to August 28, Greinke was a below-average pitcher, hindered by little run support and batters laying off his pitches. He actually recorded a negative win probability added in that same span, further compounding his performance in his first 24 games this season.

But his last four games ended the season strongly. From his value, some admitted recency bias, and Greinke's impact on this franchise, it is hard to give him a very negative grade. His 2023 season and probable ride into the sunset deserve a B-.

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