Sunday, May 23, 2004

 Impressions of Zack Greinke, and the Royals 

I'm including here, in no particular order of relevance or chronology, some of my thoughts and impressions about seeing Greinke and the Royals yesterday at the Coliseum. As a west coast Royals fan, I don't get to see them much firsthand (although after yesterday, maybe that's a good thing.) Of course I'm no expert scout or anything, just an interested fan. Also bear in mind that I sat 6 rows into the upper deck, albeit right behind home plate. A nice view, although not so easy to judge exactly how high or low some pitches were.

• I like Zack Greinke. A lot. If he continues to develop from where he is now, I really do believe he could be a premiere pitcher in this league. Granted, he came into this game with an advantage common to many new pitchers, which is his unfamiliarity to opposing teams. And it's probably fair to say he benefited a decent amount from that. Still, there were certain indications to me of his remarkable potential, and why so many hopes are being placed on him.

For example, he can really change speeds. His fastball most of the time cruises in around 84-89, but he did kick back and throw a few in at 92-93. His off-speed stuff cruises in in the mid-70s, and I saw more than a few mis-timed swings by the A's as a result. Also, Greinke was unafraid of jamming hitters. He did seem to lack the overall control that I'd often heard about, since several times some of his outside pitches went way outside. But I atttribute some of that to just plain nerves - the Coliseum is a tough place for a new guy on an opposing team to make a debut appearance.

I was also impressed by how he handled his only true jam situation - based loaded, 2 outs in the 5th, facing Eric Chavez. He threw two WAY-offspeed pitches which I would have guessed were knuckleballs based on the fact the came in at 63 mph. I mean really, mix that in with the occasional 90 mph fastball, and you've got yourself a pretty tough pitcher to time. Chavez was totally fooled by it. Now, it's not completely devastating yet - over time, Greinke will have to learn how to mask his delivery of that pitch, since his arm motion is noticeably different for it, and hitters will eventually pick up on that. But his careful use of it, the fact that he saved it for just that situation, showed me he's got a great mind for the game, and surprising maturity for a 20-year old.

Overall, he wasn't dominating, but he seemed to me very confident in himself, and by and large in control of the situation. He certainly didn't look like a guy who was only throwing A ball just last summer, that's for sure - I can now see how the whisperings of "the next Maddux", although perhaps premature, are not totally unwarranted. He certainly deserved to win that game. But I'll talk more about that in a bit. Grrrr.....

• Jeremy Affeldt in the pen. I was kinda disappointed to hear about his going down there, given how bereft our rotation is of reasonably competent arms, but seeing how he is in relief, I can see why. The mere fact he can add a few extra mph to his fastball, I think, makes him that much tougher of a reliever than he could be as a starter. Even though he made that one mistake to Chavez in the 9th, he still looked like a terrific late-innings reliever. I just hope no one gets too down on him for that home run pitch, because as painful as that was to watch, he should never have been in that situation to begin with (yeah, I'm looking at you, Angel). Which brings me to my next topic, defense, or lack thereof...

• Good god. You know, it says something not too flattering when the best defensive play by any Royals player Saturday was by Matt Stairs on that sliding catch he made in the 10th (I believe). It wasn't a spectacular catch, but it was surprisingly good. Back to Berroa though - what is it with him and making crucial errors against the A's in late innings? That grounder took a nice big juicy comfortable hop for him - he didn't even have to range for it, it was right at him. There was no excuse for him not making that play, it just doesn't get any easier than that. Affeldt should have been out of there 3 up 3 down, given the way he was throwing, but crap like that makes his job incrementally tougher, and when playing this A's team and their penchant for dramatic comebacks, leads to bad things. Sheeesh guys, at least make them earn their way on base, OK?

Oh, and that dropped popup in the 2nd or 3rd that luckily didn't lead to any runs - it was ruled a single, but to all our eyes that should have been an error. Totally embarrassing - Desi and Mendy were each just standing right there, and it seemed like there was just no communication as to who should catch it. That kind of ball is Mendy's all the way, but for whatever reason, neither of them seemed to know that.

• It's amazing how many times Santiago, who I call The Double-Play Hitting Machine, gets opportunities to do just that. 3 or 4 times, he came up with 1 out and a runner on first. I actually clapped when he struck out or popped up, just for avoiding the GIDP. Of course, he did meet his 1-DP minimum quota eventually.

• Later in the game I saw this rather portly man walk onto the field toward home plate, from the Royals dugout to talk to Mike Sweeney after a pitch. Who is this guy? Oh wait - is that Nick Swartz? My god, no wonder the Royals are beset with injuries.

• Mendy Lopez. It's like having the pitcher bat when he's in the lineup. I mean, congrats on hitting that opening day game-tying homer in the 9th, that was awesome. But the guy just can't get anything else going, and his body language shows it. I know, he's just in there as a fill-in, but relying on him for D and O makes it that much harder for the Royals to win games. At one point Zito gave an intentional walk to Desi Frickin' Relaford in order to pitch to him - now what does that tell you?

• Brandon Berger. I don't follow the Royals minor leagues all that closely, but it seems like I'm always hearing about how this guy is raking in AAA, gets called up, and instantly becomes a .220 hitter for the Royals. (And of course gets sent back down at the earliest opportunity.) He did have a great timely hit against Zito that would have won the game for us, but his other AB's actually looked pretty bad. And he also horribly misplayed an off-the-wall double, which fortunately didn't lead to anything worse at the time. Again though, he looked pretty bad on that play, as if he couldn't figure out which way to break for it or how to play the carom.

• Overall, this loss was heartbreaking for me. It just seems like the Royals are cursed when playing the A's. 2 outs in the ninth, and a 2 run lead, and they still can't close the deal. The Royals are now something like 10-31 against them in the past 4 years, and more than a few of those losses came when the Royals had a late-inning lead and lost it due to heroics or homers by A's players. My god, why hast thou forsaken us?

My dislike of the A's has now turned into outright hatred. Maybe it'll be 5, 10, or even 20 years from now, but the day will come when the Royals are a better team than the A's. And when that day comes, I will make a return pilgrimage to Oakland or wherever and will delight to see the Royals mop the floor with them. But sadly, I have to report that the Royals are a long way off from that right now.

But then again, you probably knew that already.

Comments: Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?