“Are the Astros a lock or just close to a lock?”
It’s a question that warrants consideration, and it’s exactly how Josh Lewin kicked off this week’s episode of “Big Time Baseball,” a podcast featuring Lewin alongside MLB Insider Jon Heyman and a number of special guests.
The driving force behind this question was, in addition to the revitalized offense and already-dominant pitching staff, the recent acquisition of Zack Greinke. Since turning 30 in 2014, the righty has been elected to five All-Star rosters and has compiled a 91-40 record -- second in wins to Max Scherzer in that span, and second in winning percentage to Clayton Kershaw. He’s gotten better with age, as his 2.90 ERA so far this season is his best in the past four years.
Greinke’s former manager, Diamondbacks skipper Torey Lovullo, had high praise for the hurler in an interview with Lewin and Heyman.
“I believe that I got a chance to manage a Hall-of-Famer,” Lovullo said. “He’s got numbers that are racing towards that. I think 3,000 strikeouts are within his reach, and he’s got a tremendous body and a lot of life left in that arm.”
With 2,570 strikeouts under his belt, Greinke will only need a couple more years to join the exclusive club that Lovullo referenced. Only two of Hall-of-Fame eligible pitchers that have reached 3,000 strikeouts (Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling) have not been inducted; the other 14 are.
But Lovullo saw Greinke as more than just an elite pitcher, acknowledging the former Arizona ace’s ability to lead as a teammate.
“The real beauty of Zack… is the incredible teammate that he became, the open and honest communicator that helped friendships develop,” Lovullo said. “Personally speaking, he was one of the core guys that I turned to and leaned on for the opinions that mattered most. He helped me become a better manager and I trusted what he was saying… I can’t say enough good things about the person that he is.”
And this is exactly the type of player that makes one question whether other teams even have a chance against the Astros. Houston now has four of the top 10 American League pitchers in WHIP, with Verlander and Greinke at the No. 1 and No. 2 spots, respectively. Gerrit Cole sits fourth, while Wade Miley is ranked ninth.
With all of the attention Houston is getting, it’s important to remember that Arizona got a haul on their end as well, bringing in assets like Seth Beer and J.B Bukauskas. Lovullo is excited for what’s to come in the desert.
“We’re super excited about the group that’s brought in… things are starting to overlap a little bit with what I remember taking place in Boston,” Lovullo said. “The team [was] competing at the big league level, doing its best job every day, and then building from within and making a very powerful player development system that became the backbone of what the Red Sox did over the past couple of years.
“There are some architects inside our front office that are making something special happen here.”
You can listen to the rest of the interview, as well as the discussion with Indians play-by-play announcer Tom Hamilton and the rest of this week’s “Big Time Baseball” episode, on iTunes among other streaming services.