Zack Greinke to Angels: Trade for Brewers Ace Makes Angels Team to Beat in AL

Zachary D. RymerMLB Lead WriterJuly 27, 2012

MILWAUKEE, WI - JULY 02: Zack Greinke #13 of the Milwaukee Brewers pitches during the game against the Miami Marlins at Miller Park on July 02, 2012 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)
Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Angels made it clear this offseason when they signed Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson that they had their hearts set on winning the World Series in the very near future.

On Friday, they made their message to the baseball world a little more specific. They intend to win the World Series this year.

The Angels have won the Zack Greinke sweepstakes. Ken Rosenthal of was the first to confirm the trade, and he then came through with the specifics of the deal:

#Brewers getting shortstop Jean Segura and two Double A pitchers from #Angels for Greinke. "Finishing touches" being applied. Deal is done.

— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 27, 2012

Rosenthal subsequently revealed that Ariel Pena and Johnny Hellweg are the two pitchers going to Milwaukee in the deal in addition to Segura.

The Angels' farm system, which was thin to begin with, is now without three of its top prospects. When Baseball America presented its rankings of the top-10 prospects in the Angels' farm system before the start of the season, the only player who ranked higher than Segura was Mike Trout. Hellweg and Pena were ranked No. 4 and No. 9, respectively.

For the Angels, parting with these prospects is well worth it. The pitcher they're getting in return is one of the best in the business.

Greinke established himself as an ace when he won the American League Cy Young award back in 2009 when he was with the Kansas City Royals, going 16-8 with a 2.16 ERA and a 9.50 K/9. This season with the Brewers, he went 9-3 with a 3.44 ERA in 21 starts.

There's a perception among baseball fans that Greinke is not as good as the hype suggests, which seems to stem from the fact that he hasn't posted an ERA under 3.00 since his Cy Young season in '09. Sub-3.00 ERAs are, after all, the mark of true ace pitchers.

This perception doesn't do Greinke justice. Over the last three-plus seasons, he's been as good as any pitcher in baseball.

Since the start of the 2009 season, there are only four pitchers in baseball with higher WARs than Greinke, according to FanGraphs. Their names: Felix Hernandez, Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay and Justin Verlander.

That's a good testament to Greinke's quality as a pitcher, but one can also look at his FIP (fielding independent pitching) totals over the last few seasons to get an idea of how good he's been.

Since '09, only Josh Johnson has posted a lower FIP than Greinke. He finished eighth in MLB in FIP in 2011 and is leading the league in FIP this season at 2.50.

Greinke's 3.44 ERA this season is therefore somewhat misleading. It's higher than it should be, and that has a lot to do with Milwaukee's defense. The Brewers rate as one of the most ineffective defensive teams in all of baseball, and that's reflected in Greinke's relatively high ERA.

And that's what's scary about Greinke joining forces with the Angels. They rank second in MLB with a collective UZR of 29.0, according to FanGraphs, and fourth with a DRS (defensive runs saved) of plus-28. Greinke is going from a poor defensive team to an excellent defensive team.

Since Greinke will now be pitching for such a good defensive team, it stands to reason that his ERA will reflect his ability as a pitcher. If he wasn't an ace before, he's certainly going to be one now.

This doesn't bode well for the rest of the field in the American League. The Angels already had one of the top aces in the Junior Circuit in Jered Weaver and two more solid starting pitchers in Wilson and Dan Haren. In a short postseason series, those three alone would have made the Angels a hard team to beat.

Now they're going to be able to line up Weaver, Greinke, Wilson and Haren in the postseason. No other team in the American League has the pitching firepower to contend with that foursome. In fact, no team can even come close.

One doesn't even need to insert the caveat "if the Angels make it" into this discussion. They're going to make it. They were a good bet to make the postseason before they acquired Greinke. Now, they're a lock to at least score a wild-card berth.

They're not a lock for the World Series, but they're definitely the team to beat now that they've added Greinke to their starting rotation. Theirs is a starting rotation that other teams are going to learn to fear, and they also have to take into account the fact that the quality of the Angels does not end with their starting pitching.

Since the middle of May, the Angels have been one of the top offensive teams in baseball. Mike Trout is the most dangerous offensive force in either league right now. Albert Pujols has an OPS over 1.000 since Mickey Hatcher was fired. Mark Trumbo leads the American League in slugging. Torii Hunter has an .827 OPS when he bats second in the lineup.

In their bullpen, the Angels have an assortment of power arms, an excellent lefty in Scott Downs and a closer in Ernesto Frieri who has been as nasty as anybody since the Angels acquired him from the San Diego Padres.

To top it all off, the Angels are led by a manager in Mike Scioscia who has been there and done that before.

With all due respect to the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees, the AL pennant is no longer theirs to lose. Now that the Angels have Greinke, they're the clear favorite to represent the American League in the World Series.

Teams who would challenge the Angels' claim to the AL pennant are running out of time to act.

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