Today we’ll be discussing the crown jewel of the free agent pool for starting pitchers, Zack Greinke, also known as Angry Birdman. If the Dodgers are going to be signing a starting pitcher, then they might as well go for broke and sign Greinke. The angry birdman is the lone “Ace” available via free agency this winter.
Greinke is a 29 year old right hander who is originally from Orlando Florida. Greinke was not originally a pitcher, he was actually an infielder that was converted to pitcher because he had such a strong throwing arm. Greinke was a big slugger while playing Baseball in high school. Life before pitching saw Greinke put up some impressive power numbers while in school. The Angry Birdman went on to hit 31 home runs while in high school. During his senior year, Greinke posted a 9-2 record, a 055 ERA, and whiffed 118 batters in only 63 innings pitched. You could say the experiment was a success. Greinke earned the Gatorade national player of the year award for superb pitching. As a result, the Kansas City Royals drafted him in the first round of the 2002 amateur draft.
In 2003 Greinke was named the Royal’s minor league pitcher of the year. That season he was 15-4 with a 1.93 ERA for the double A Wichita Wranglers. Greinke made his MLB debut with the Royals in 2004. That year he posted an 8-11 record, and a 3.97 ERA in 24 games. That year he finished fourth in the AL rookie of the year voting.
Let’s get one thing out of the way first. Greinke looks like a bird. Not just any bird, an angry bird if you will. He looks like an angry birdman. You know the angry birds from the game? Yes, that’s what Greinke looks like. His big bird like nose, and tall bird like stature. Of course, Greinke is following in a long history of major league pitchers who look like birds.
Remember Mark Fidrych? Also known as Mark “the bird” Fidrych. Tiger’s fans nicknamed him the bird since he looked like, well a bird! Some people said he reminded them of Big Bird from Sesame street. Tiger’s fans were known as “The bird watchers” whenever Fidrych pitched. Remember these bird like pitchers are normally very tall. Fidrych was 6’3, while Greinke is 6’2. Fidrych won the rookie of the year award for the Tigers in 1976 and finished second in the AL Cy Young voting after a 19-9 season, a 2.34 ERA, 24 complete games, and 250 innings pitched. Injuries cut the bird’s career short, and by 1980, he was out of Baseball. Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels, also looks like a bird. However he looks like a regular bird, while Greinke is the angry birdman.
In 2005 Greinke had a bad year for the Royals. He posted a 5-17 record, and his ERA ballooned to 5.80. He allowed 233 hits in 183 innings pitched. Something was wrong. Greinke was suffering from an anxiety disorder and depression. After pitching in only three games in 2006, greinke had to leave the team for the rest of the year, and started on anti-depression medication. The Royals had him live with Royal;s legend George Brett, to try and ease his anxiety. According to reports, he was isolated and awkward in the clubhouse.
After a year off, Greinke returned with a vengeance to regain his form. In 2007, he pitched most games out of the bullpen. In 52 games he posted a 3.69 ERA, and whiffed 106 in 122 innings. Greinke returned to the Royal’s starting rotation in 2008 to have a breakout year. He posted a 13-10 record, a 3.47 ERA, and whiffed 183 in 202 innings, while only walking 56. Greinke won the AL Cy Young Award in 2009. That season he was 16-8 with a 2.16 ERA. That season he won the ERA title while whiffing 242 in 229 innings, and only walking 51. The following season in 2010, Greinke pitched his final season in Kansas City. His 10-14 record, 4.17 ERA, and 181 whiffs in 220 innings was considered as a disappointment. That winter Greinke voiced his desire to play for a winning team. So he was traded to the Brewers along with Yuniesky Betancourt, and two million dollars for Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain, and two minor leaguers.
Greinke returned to his old dominating self. In 2011 Greinke was 16-6 with a 3.83 ERA in 28 games for Milwaukee. He whiffed 201 batters against only 45 walks in 171 innings. During the 2012 season, Greinke was 15-5 with a 3.48 ERA in 34 games between the Brewers and Angels. Greinke was 9-3 with a 3.44 ERA with Milwaukee, before he was traded to the Angels in late July. Greinke struggled at first to adjust, posting a 7.20 ERA in his first four starts with the Angels. Finally, the Angry Birdman settled down, posting a 1.88 ERA over his last four starts and 28 innings. He won all four of those starts. He eventually finished with a 6-2 record, and a 3.54 ERA in 13 games for the Angels. All total in 2012, Greinke whiffed 200 batters, against only 54 walks, in 212 innings.
Greinke has a career mark of 97-78, and an ERA of 3.77. He has three 200+ whiff seasons, and four 200+ inning seasons. Not to mention an ERA title, an all-star selection, and a Cy Young Award. Yes, Greinke is very good.
Greinke throws six different pitches. He has a two-seamer, a four-seamer, and a cutter. His fastballs range between 92-96 MPH. His cutter ranges from 88-91. He also throws a very good slider, slow curve-ball, and a change-up. Hitters are only hitting .154 against his slider, and Greinke has the tenth best strikeout to walk ratio among active starters. He also studies advanced sabermetrics and credits the advanced stats for helping him improve his game. So that’s the skinny on Greinke.
The Dodgers are now operating under financial and fiscal freedom. With the new ownership’s deep pockets, the sky is the limit, and the Dodgers can look at everyone and anyone this winter. The Dodgers are expected to have an opening day 2013 payroll of over 198 million dollars. There are no limitations. So if that is true, then why not go for broke and sign Greinke? How much salary would he command? Reports are that he is looking for a five or six year contract in the neighborhood of 150 million dollars or more. That can buy a whole lot of bird seed. Several teams are looking at Greinke, including the Dodgers.