LOS ANGELES - With Zack Greinke, there is one thing on which everyone can pretty much agree: It sure is difficult to figure him out. He seems curt and jumpy, but his teammates like him and Dodgers executives say he is the most interesting guy they ever have interviewed. He might be the best pitcher in the National League, or he might not even be the top pitcher on his team.
As for opposing batters trying to get a read on him, well, there is a reason he was 19-3 this season with a league-leading 1.66 ERA and a 9.3 WAR (wins above replacement), which also was best in the league. The Mets get their chance to try to fathom him Saturday night in Game 2 of their National League Division Series.
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The one certainty is that Greinke will do it his own unpredictable, indecipherable way. "I think experience kind of helps, because I do sort of treat it sort of similar to a regular game, or I try to as much as possible," he said during a news conference on Friday in which he gave rather short answers, with his eyes darting around the room. "I feel it's helped out, just trying to keep it as similar as just any other game."
By any measure, the righthander is unlike any other guy. He always has been a natural athlete (nationally ranked junior tennis player, golfer who can hit the ball 300 yards) with a special affinity and flair for baseball. He was a .400-hitting shortstop in high school outside Orlando, but the strength of his arm made him a pitcher and a first-round draft selection (sixth overall in 2002) by the Royals.
Just to make it interesting, he would occasionally deliberately throw pitches outside the strike zone or go stretches in which he used only off-speed stuff.
He nearly gave it all up in 2006, though, because of a social anxiety disorder, which has been controlled with medication. Greinke still has an active, analytical mind. Before the Dodgers offered him a six-year, $147-million contract two years ago, he and they had fascinating talks. Club president Stan Kasten called it the most interesting negotiation he ever has had.
Among many topics, Greinke endorsed prospect Corey Seager, who this year has made it from Double-A ball to the Dodgers' starting lineup.
Greinke says he still is learning, at least from teammate Clayton Kershaw, who was chosen to start Game 1 Friday night. "I probably stopped trying to trick guys as much as I used to and try to make my pitches as good as possible," the Game 2 starter said.
What neither he, Kershaw nor their organization has figured out is how to make a deep postseason run.
"I think that's how people in the clubhouse feel. We should have done better the last couple years," he said. "I wouldn't say anything's guaranteed and it's not easy. But we have as good of a chance as anyone."