Before the 2009 fantasy baseball season there was a lot of talk about Zack Greinke, and the general thought was he was poised for a breakout 2009 season after having a very solid 2008 season and a tremendous final two months of 2008.
I don’t know if anyone thought his breakout season would be as good as it was.
What He Was
Greinke was thought of as an elite prospect after he was selected sixth overall in the 2002 draft, and he sure pitched like it early on.
The combination of dominating in the minor leagues (in 2003 Greinke went 11-1 with a 1.14 ERA for Class-A Wilmington) and being in the Royals system (where there wasn’t a whole lot of talent at the major league level) Greinke reached the big leagues at the age of 20, and pitched pretty well for a 20-year-old.
Greinke went 8-11 with a 3.97 ERA for Kansas City in his rookie season and struck out 100 in 145 innings of work.
What follows is where it gets strange.
Greinke went 5-17 with a 5.80 ERA in his second season in the bigs, and then took a leave of absence from the Royals because of a social anxiety disorder in 2006, with the intention of never playing baseball again. (Look at February 25, 2006 on that list).
Greinke would overcome his problems though, and return to the Royals later that year – but as a middle reliever. He remained in that role at the start of 2007, but eventually was moved back to the starting rotation. He fared well in that season, finishing with a 3.69 ERA and a 7-7 record in 122 innings of work.
In 2008, Grienke was solid again, this time as a full-time starter. But was considered a back-end fantasy rotation pitcher at the start of the season – and probably somewhere in the middle ground at the end of the year.
But in the 2009 preseason – with fantasy experts looking for players primed to breakout, Greinke’s name kept surfacing.
What Happened in 2009
Greinke was amazing.
He went 16-8 for a Royals team that was 65-97. Greinke posted a 2.16 ERA and struck out 242 in 229.1 innings to win the AL Cy Young Award. He posted three months with an ERA under 2.00 and two months with an ERA under 1.00.
He was pretty well dominant start to finish and when the year wrapped up, Greinke was ranked the second best fantasy baseball player by Yahoo!, with Albert Pujols ranked first.
I think 2009 was the start of a trend for Greinke.
He was always thought of as an elite talent, and other than the dismal 2005 season, Greinke had always posted very solid numbers. He is still just 26 years old, and the only thing that can hold him back from posting ridiculous fantasy numbers is the Royals atrocious team.
If Greinke could have been pitching for even a mediocre team in 2009 – like the Milwaukee Brewers, who finished 80-82 – he probably would have been a 20 or 22-game winner, with just three or four losses.
He has moved into the elite end of fantasy baseball pitchers, and probably is going to stay there for the next four to six seasons.