Tuesday, May 5, 2009

How did Zack Greinke get so good?

Royals pitcher Zack Greinke is just beginning to show up on the nation's radar - a 6-0 start with a 0.40 ERA will do that, even if you are pitching in Kansas City.

But fantasy players have known about the young hurler for a long time now, all the way back to 2003 when he was the minor league player of the year. He was a bit homer-prone early in his career and went through plenty of growing pains after being rushed to the majors at the delicate age of 20. Then he bottomed out, succumbing to depression and social anxiety disorder and walking away from baseball, as Joe Posnanski details in this week's Sports Illustrated cover story.

But now Greinke is back and in a better place mentally. And that's translated to amazing success on the mound, where the 25-year-old is the early front-runner for the AL Cy Young. He's been fabulous this year - 54 strikeouts to eight walks, two earned runs in 45 innings, three complete games. And it's no fluke, either: this is what scouts and observers always believed Greinke was capable of, thanks to excellent command of both his fastball and his curve. Obviously he's not going undefeated, and that ERA is bound to creep up a bit, but don't sell high here. You're getting ace-quality numbers from a pitcher who likely was taken in the middle rounds of the draft or cost a fraction of disappointments like Brandon Webb or Cole Hamels. Enjoy the ride, and let's see what Greinke is capable of this year.

Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated

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