2019 Stats: 18-5, 2.93 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 6.4 bWAR, 5.4 fWAR
2019 Salary: 34.5 Million Dollars
2020 Status: Exiled to Houston
Awards: NL Silver Slugger, NL Gold Glove
Zack Greinke might be the best pitcher to ever wear a Diamondbacks uniform. I realize this might be controversial statement, and I mean no disrespect to Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, or even Brandon Webb. However, What Greinke was able to accomplish after he should no longer have been a top tier pitcher is astonishing to me. While he didn’t have the Cy Youngs of RJ, or the Bloody Sock moment of Schilling, or the brilliant but burned to quickly promise of Webb, watching him reinvent himself on the fly from his stellar self in KC and LA, into a soft tossing, but equally stellar, pitcher who still managed to make batters look foolish with a 68 MPH eephus is one of the most impressive things I’ve ever had the pleasure of witnessing on this team. The fact that he managed to live up to the massive contract he signed, despite a near-constant chorus around the country that he would never be able to, speaks to that.
Greinke was really good this season. No really good. By almost any statistic, it was his best season here. ERA? Only season under three. Not advanced enough for you? Best season for ERA+ by seven points. WHIP? Only season under 1. Fewest H/9, fewest BB/9. Sure, FIP didn’t love him quite as much, but I think that was part of what made him so good. He excelled at inducing bad contact that could be fielded. At those velocities and with those pitches, you have to do that to succeed.
That’s what made him so great. The cerebral, meticulous effort to be the best, regardless of his pure “stuff.” He is a student of the game, and as a baseball fan in addition to a Diamondbacks fan, I truly appreciate that. He made the games interesting by making them boring. I’m sure Manfred hates him.
He was so good in fact, the conversation became just how good he was. On July 4th of this year, our own Jack Sommers wrote an article breaking down whether or not he has a realistic chance at the Hall of Fame. At the end, he turned the question over to the readers and an astounding 97% of the 148 voters said he was either close or already there. No prize if you guess what I voted. That case only got stronger, of course, with a phenomenal Game 7 in the World Series with Houston.
Of course, just twenty six days later, everything changed. Mike Hazen was making calls about Robbie Ray and suddenly Houston offered a king’s ransom for Greinke that he couldn’t refuse. Greinke was gone, Ray was still there, Leake was a Diamondback five years too late, and we got a new ZG from the Marlins. The face of the team was drastically different.
The rest is history. The Diamondbacks missed the playoffs, but probably wouldn’t have made it with him anyway. Greinke made the playoffs with Houston, and came agonizingly close to winning it all. Personally, I believe that sealed his fate in Coopers town and seven or eight years from now, we’ll get to see what his acceptance speech is like. Hopefully they keep the plaque short and sweet, just like he’d like it. Might I suggest:
He was Zack Greinke, and he was damn good at it.