November 17, 2009
Worry no longer, Kansas City.
After a few months of local fretting that Cy Young voters wouldn't be able to see past a relatively low victory total or would simply be blinded by the glare from a bigger market ace, the brilliance of Zack Greinke's(notes) 2009 season prevailed in dominating fashion.
The Kansas City ace received 25 of 28 first-place votes on Tuesday afternoon to win his first Cy Young award and provide a downtrodden baseball market with something to crow about. Seattle's Felix Hernandez(notes) received two first place votes to finish second and was followed by Detroit's Justin Verlander(notes) (one first place vote), New York's CC Sabathia(notes) and Toronto's Roy Halladay(notes). No previous AL winner had won less than 18 games in a full season (KC's David Cone had 16 in the 1994 strike season) and five of the last six recipients have come from the AL Central.
That Greinke would win in a landslide shouldn't have come as a surprise. Despite playing on a 97-loss team, The Grinch posted eye-popping numbers from the start to finish of a 16-8 season, leading the league in ERA (2.16) and WHIP (1.07) and finishing second in strikeouts (242) and complete games (six). Picked with the sixth selection of the 2002 draft, Greinke finally made the jump into the league's upper echelon of aces in 2009 and that he did it after battling depression and social anxiety disorder makes it all the more impressive.
1. Royals 3, Mariners 0 — Aug. 30 One-hit complete game shutout? Um, yes please. Greinke allows a walk to Bill Hall(notes) and single to Kenji Johjima(notes) in the second inning, but responds by retiring the last 22 batters on a Sunday getaway day in Seattle, earning his highest game score of the season (89) and the first one-hitter of his career.
2. Royals 6, Indians 2 — Aug. 25 Zack Attack set a Royals record by striking out 15 Cleveland batters over eight innings, abandoning an early plan to pitch to contact once he recognizes that unwise Indians batters are looking to take pitches.
3. Royals 6, Tigers 1 — April 24 One start after blanking the Rangers with a complete-game shutout, Greinke doesn't allow a earned run and strikes out 10 Tigers over nine innings against Detroit. The effort keeps his early season ERA at 0.00 (after four starts) and gives us our first real indication that it will be a special season. It also earns him a spot on the front of this nifty Sports Illustrated cover.
4. Angels 1, Royals 0 — May 9 In what would become a recurring theme that eventually forces us to take this stand, Greinke gives up one run over eight innings in a losing effort. Even more incredibly, his one-run effort actually forces his ERA to rise to 0.51.
5. Royals 5, Red Sox 1 — Sept. 22 Six scoreless innings in a win against the Red Sox was far from one of Greinke's best outings. But if it swayed a few East Coast-based writers who were once waving the "he doesn't pitch against the AL East" flag, it was as important an outing as any in terms of bringing home the hardware.