We Might’ve Met NYY’s Next Great Reliever

2014 wasn’t a good year to be a starting pitcher on the New York Yankees. With injuries to CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, Ivan Nova and David Phelps, jokes about Andy Pettitte coming back from retirement again started to find “but really though” tacked on at the end. Out of the rotation vacuum emerged Shane Greene, an unlikely success story from Daytona Beach Community College. If the Yankees manage to put together a healthy starting rotation for opening day, Greene will likely be shifted to the bullpen, where I believe he will flourish.

In 78.1 IP as a starter, he posted a 3.79 ERA, a 3.64 FIP, a WHIP of 1.37, and K/9 and BB/9 rates of 9.19 and 2.99 respectively. His WHIP would lead many to think he overachieved, but aside from that and his walk rate, he was an above average pitcher.

What stands out specifically about Greene is his 2-seam fastball. To make a long story short, Pitch f/x would suggest that it is very hard to hit:

Pitcher vSI vFT h-movSI v-movSI h-movFT v-movFT
League Average 90.7 91.5 -4.6 4.9 -1.9 6.4
Shane Greene 93.9 92.7 -7.7 5 -8.5 6.3

Note that while his scouting report does not specifically mention him as throwing a sinker, Pitch f/x occasionally registered his 2-seamer as one. While this is pretty common (Kelvin Herrera’s 90 mph changeup routinely registers as a 4-seamer), I believe that it is a telling sign when it comes to the life on Greene’s fastball.

Unsurprisingly, his fastball is harder to hit with increasing velocity. Hitters put up a mere .136 BA and SLG% in an admittedly small sample size against Greene’s 2-seamers above 94 mph. Those slower than 94 mph were hit to the tune of a .340 BA and a .447 SLG%. It is well known that pitchers experience an increase in velocity after a starting rotation to bullpen transition. Greene’s 2-seam fastball, which averaged at 92.8 mph, could easily creep up to the mid 90’s if he were put in the bullpen.

Of course, one reason why he might not ever succeed out of the bullpen is because he could remain a starter. He showed flashes of dominance in 2014, the most noteworthy being his shutout of the potent Tigers lineup. But even if the Yankees do pencil Greene into the 5th spot of their rotation, something will have to give when Ivan Nova comes back from Tommy John surgery.

Like Joba Chamberlain when he became a starter in 2009, those few extra miles per hour on his fastball could make a huge impact on Greene’s numbers. As a fan, I appreciate David Robertson both as an excellent pitcher and a superb role model. But if the Yankees do not want to pay him the closer money he will deservedly get on the free agent market, Greene might be a cost-effective late-inning option.

Note: Stats not taken from FanGraphs are from baseballsavant.com



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Steven
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Steven

A very likely reason that his top velocity fastballs are much more effective than his lower velocity fastballs is because it is less expected by the hitters (by its nature of being higher than the average). I’m guessing that you would see a similar phenomenon for pitchers as a whole.

I do think Greene is a sleeper, but he does have some problems as well. First, he has incurred a very high babip every year of his career. With a 600ish inning sample size, I’m not sure that we can completely write it off as a random fluctuation. Second, among the 88 qualified pitchers in the MLB, Greene’s 39.9 Zone% would rank 4th worst. It’s a small sample size, but he will have to throw more pitches in the zone if his walk rate isn’t going to increase next year.

It would be interesting to see him as a reliever next year. His velocity improved from 2013 to 2014, so if he can sustain his velocity gains and then possibly gain a bit more velocity as a reliever, he could be quite good.

Connor
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Connor

Greene definitely looked like a great option for the late innings in his time with the Yanks this year. They should hang on to him for either purpose. It would also be telling to examine his fatigue factor over the span of a given start. He’s got the build and armslot to be dominant with his sinker against righthanded power bats in the late innings. I also agree that we haven’t seen his peak velocity yet.

Michael
Member
Michael

We’ve already met the next great Yankee reliever and his name is Dellin.