Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Baseball In The Daytime: 19 August 2009

Our lone matinee in baseball today happens to feature the House of Georges' favorite bad ballclub. So come with me, ladies and gentlemens, to the bucolic South Side of Chicago, where our beloved Royals attempt to either win a Major League baseball game or advance one step closer to drafting Bryce Harper. It's a win-win, really, after the jump...

Kansas City @ Chicago White Sox, 12:05 Mountain This game at U.S. Cellular Field features starting pitchers Zack Greinke and Jose Contreras. Contreras is a washed-up old Cuban forkballer who spent a chunk of the season in Triple-A because he gets torched regularly. Greinke has been one of the AL's best pitchers this season, but let's examine exactly how good.

Greinke's record stands at 11-7, but that's much more a function of the jersey he wears than his pitching ability. His teammates have given him just 4.71 runs of support per start, lowest in the AL among pitchers who've thrown 100+ innings. In his last start Friday against the Tigers, he went seven strong and allowed one run as the Royals went down 1-0. It was the fourth time KC has been shut out in Greinke's starts this season and the second time he's lost 1-0. In those four shutout losses he's tallied 28 innings and yielded four earned runs.

For the year Grienke's ERA of 2.33 leads the league, as do his 20 quality starts. He's third in strikeouts (174) and strikeouts per 9 innings (9.41) behind Justin Verlander and Jon Lester, and seventh in innings pitched at 166 2/3. Could Greinke possibly capture the Cy Young on a last-place club?

It's happened before, in 1972, when Steve Carlton went 27-10 for a Phillies team that won only 59 games total. Greinke is nowhere near Lefty's year, which was among the best ever--Carlton notched 30 complete games, struck out 310, had a 1.97 era and a 15-game winning streak. The young Royal ace is helped by a relatively weak AL field, however, and has an outside shot at the Cy.

The leaders at this point are probably Verlander and Roy Halladay, with the Red Sox duo of Lester and Josh Beckett likely to draw votes as well. Verlander is 13-6 with a 3.28 ERA, 194 strikeouts and a 1.16 WHIP in '09, while Halladay's gone 13-5/2.65/144/1.08. Verlander will get credit for his status as the ace of a probable division winner, which he should. But If Verlander fades, there is no reason for Halladay to receive the award ahead of Greinke when the Royal has significantly better numbers. Stank already lost the starting gig in the All-Star game to Doc because of reputation alone, if he were denied a Cy Young for the same reason it would be a crime.

As for the rest of the Royals, someone has finally crystallized what the remainder of the season is all about--megaphenom Bryce Harper and the No. 1 pick in 2010. Bleacher Report has taken up the task of following the race for the bottom, which currently has the Nats in the lead. KC has closed to within four games, so there's opportunity in these last six weeks to catch up (or down, whatever). And if you're a Royals fan who, like our very own Banky, can't stomach wishing for failure, just pull for the Nats--except today, when the play the Rockies. Just lose, baby, and Play Ball!