Thursday, August 20, 2009

Greinke’s shot at the AL Cy Young Award is fading

Game Date: August 19, 2009 
Kansas City @ Chicago
White Sox 4, Royals 2 / Box Score
WP: Contreras (5-11), LP: Greinke (11-8) SV: Jenks (26)
KC Home Runs: DeJesus (9), Teahen (10)
Royals Record: 47-73 / Record in August 7-11

If you do the math, Zack Greinke probably has eight more starts this season. After getting tagged with the loss last night, you have to believe he has to win at least seven of his final eight starts to still have a shot at the Cy Young Award. That’s not very realistic and it’s a shame, given the season he has had, but it’s the reality he faces.

He’s not pitching to win awards. I know that. But it’s all we have left to root for this season. I’m with many of you who believe that judging a pitcher by his wins doesn’t accurately portray the way he’s pitched, but clearly, piling up wins puts a pitcher in contention for the Cy Young Award.

The last time a pitcher in the American League won the Cy Young with less than 18 wins was in the strike-shortened 1994 season. David Cone went 16-5 with a 2.94 ERA in 23 starts for the Royals that season. Toss out the 1994 season because of the strike and expand the view back to 1985—the first season Bret Saberhagen won the award—and with the exception of the season a reliever won the award, none of the remaining pitchers had less than 18 wins.

This season there are ten other pitchers in the AL who have at least 11 wins, tying Greinke, and seven of the ten have more wins the Greinke. Josh Beckett and C.C. Sabathia have 14 wins and if they win half of their remaining starts, that would put them in the 18-win range. If they win more than half, Greinke doesn’t stand much of a chance without running the table.

None of the contenders have a better ERA than Greinke, who currently sits at 2.44, although Felix Hernandez is close at 2.66 and Roy Hallady isn’t far away with at 2.78. Unfortunately, ERA is only one of the three main criteria the baseball writers seem to take into account when handing out the award: wins and team performance being the other two.

Of course, when it comes to team performance, Greinke is in trouble and that brings me back to my first point. To have a chance, Greinke needs to win at least seven of his final eight starts. But we saw Greinke win seven of his first eight starts to begin the season, maybe he can do it again. It might not be very realistic, but I’m rooting for it to happen anyway.

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