There has been some discussion on this blog about the merits of a certain Royals pitcher. Would he really, as some suggest, have done better pitching for an AL East team than for the weak-hitting lineup fielded in Kansas City? Or would he, as others have claimed, had more wins but an inflated ERA?

To shed some light on this discussion, consider the stat known as 'adjusted ERA', or (more commonly) ERA+. Here's an explanation of the stat. Essentially, a major-league pitcher who pitches what their ballpark and league scoring environment predicts is given a score of '100'.

It turns out that since major-league baseball moved the pitching rubber to its present distance from home plate (60' 6") back in 1893, there have been 33 seasons in which a pitcher has achieved a score of '200' or higher, which would mean that they were one hundred percent better than their own league that yaer, or (gulp) more.

Five of those seasons belong to Pedro Martinez, four to Walter Johnson, three to Roger Clemens, two each to Christy Mathewson and Greg Maddux. Dutch Leonard, Bob Gibson, Addie Joss, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Lefty Grove, Cy Young, among others, one each. Essentially a list of Hall of Famers, with an occasional one-year outlier (Kevin Brown, Dolph Luque) who were stars in their day.

Oh, and one Zack Greinke, with the 29th-best season since 1893 and a score of 203. Here's his competition in the best-pitcher-in-baseball bragging rights, identifying all the big-league hurlers who had at least 25 starts and a sub-3.00 ERA in 2009 . . .

Chris Carpenter 185

Felix Hernandez 174

Tim Lincecum 173

Jair Jurrjens 160

Roy Halladay 157

Clayton Kershaw 147

Javier Vasquez 145

Jon Lester 139

Adam Wainwright 135

C.C. Sabathia 133

Justin Verlander 132

Josh Johnson 129

Matt Cain 124

As you may also know, ZG led the AL in least HR per 9 IP (0.4). But he pitched so many innings he gave up 11 dongs. Interestingly enough, all but two were solo shots. Here's the tale of the tape:

gordham beckham (solo shot)
carlos quentin (solo shot)
alex rios (solo shot)
andy marte (solo shot)
willy aybar (solo shot)
adam jones (1 on)
marlon byrd (solo shot)
a.j. pierzynski (solo shot)
mark reynolds (1 on)
lyle overbay (solo shot)
adam lind (solo shot)

I may as well bring on the really obnoxious comment now. He's going to get better, this Grienke guy. Justin Verlander will not lead the AL in strikeouts next year, nor will Roy Halladay lead in innings pitched, I reckon. He's only 25 years old, and he has less than a thousand innings in the big leagues. The odds are good that he'll be the dominant guy in the league for the next 4-5 years, Royals or no Royals. Kthnxbai.