Now that the initial shock and excitement from the Zack Greinke trade to the Milwaukee Brewers is beginning to wear off, it's time to analyze and look more closely at Greinke's roll for the Brewers in 2011.
The most popular question being asked now is who will be the "ace" of the staff and get the Opening Day start against the Cincinnati Reds. Greinke, Yovani Gallardo, and Shaun Marcum all started for their respective teams in 2010, so new manager Ron Roenicke definitely has several options to choose from.
I've seen many fans and media members come out and say that Gallardo should be the Brewers' ace, and they think Greinke is over-rated. With due respect to Gallardo, he's a great young pitcher and I'm quite thankful the Brewers have him signed for the next several seasons, but he isn't on the same level as Greinke and the newest Brewer should be the ace of the staff, no questions asked.
Critics certainly have ammunition to try and question Greinke's status as an ace. His numbers regressed significantly after winning the AL Cy Young Award in 2009. His ERA jumped from 2.16 to 4.17. He had half as many complete games and no shutouts, and all his other pitching statistics declined sharply in 2010.
While some of the blame has to fall on Greinke's shoulders, he admitted he stopped throwing his slider as frequently starting in August to save his arm for the 2010 season, let us not forget that he pitched for the Kansas City Royals. The team hardly had an All-Star roster to support him either at the plate or in the field. The Brewers may not field a team of Gold Glove-caliber fielders, but they are adequate in the field and a very good offensive club.
He has also had bouts in the past with social anxiety disorder and depression. Some interpret this as a sign of weakness and an inability to sustain any long-term success or deal in pressure situations. The dosage of his medication was raised and when he spoke to the Milwaukee media he told them he was as happy now as he's ever been in the game since being drafted in 2002.
Greinke possesses as many weapons to dominate a game as any pitcher in baseball. His fastball can reach the upper-90s, but he'll consistently keep it around the mid-90s during a game. The two-seem fastball he throws is a great weapon to induce many ground balls. His slider, which some consider to be the best single pitch in the game, has a share 12-6 break that he throws in the upper-80s. His change up and curveball are both quality pitches that should work very well in the National League.
General Manager Doug Melvin has done an amazing job transforming the Brewers' rotation from a laughing-stock to a group that can compete with almost any team in the league. The still might lack the depth to compete with the Phillies or Giants, but they now have a pitcher that can match up with any pitcher on any day and win. That can go a long way when October rolls around.
Gallardo may be around in Milwaukee longer than Greinke, and Marcum is a very under-rated pitcher that had success in the most competitive division in baseball, but Zack Greinke is the ace in Milwaukee. Fans can debate it, and Roenicke may not make a public decision for a few months, but there's no question who will be on the mound for the Brewers come March 31, he's baseball royalty.
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