Pitcher Zack Greinke is a lot more amazing than most of us thought. In an incredible act of ventriloquism, he somehow managed to be the most valuable player for the 2014 American League Champion Kansas City Royals despite playing in the National League for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Greinke’s 2014 season was not a work of magic. He managed to become the Royals’ MVP through a series of circumstances and a connection that would make Kevin Bacon green with envy.
Following the 2010 season, Greinke was traded fro the Royals to the Milwaukee Brewers with Yuniesky Betancourt and cash. In return, the Royals received Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Jake Odorizzi, and Jeremy Jeffress. Sans Jeffress, the other three players the Royals received in the trade had a big impact on the 2014 season for the Royals, one by proxy.
Cain hit .301 for the Royals in 2014 and added 28 stolen bases. He split time between center field and right field which gave the Royals a few more options when writing up the lineup. Most important was his postseason success. In the playoffs he was a .333 hitter. The ALCS sweep of the Baltimore Orioles was where he shined brightest as he hit .533 against Baltimore and won the series MVP.
Escobar had a similar 2014 season to Cain, statistically. He hit a light .285 with 31 stolen bases. Maybe the most underrated part of Escobar was the fact that he started all 162 games at shortstop for the Royals. This stability gave them a stronger identity and did more than any numbers could ever represent. In the postseason, Escobar hit .292 including a .310 batting average in the World Series.
Finally, there’s Odorizzi. Like Greinke, he had a big impact on the 2014 Royals without actually playing for them. Odorizzi was one of several players traded along with Wil Myers to the Tampa Bay Rays in December 2012 for Wade Davis and James Shields. Other than Myers, Odorizzi was the most important player in this deal. If not for his projected value, the trade with Tampa Bay would have been different.
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Davis had a phenomenal year pitching in relief for the 2014 Royals. He went 9-2 with a 1.00 ERA. He even finished a distant 8th in the American League Cy Young Award voting. Shields’ play was far more expected, going 14-8 with a 3.21 ERA. He was the team’s ace and the one guy they could usually rely on to give them a win. His playoff performance may not have noteworthy, but without him, the Royals would not have been there in the first place.
Completely out of his control and without realizing it, Zack Greinke was the most important player the Royals had–or in this case, didn’t have–in 2014. Greinke, for his part, had an outstanding season for the Dodgers, but he did even more to help the Royals to the World Series.