Prior to Wednesday night’s game against the Angels, the Yankees sent down struggling reliever Chad Green and called up left-hander Stephen Tarpley. The move was somewhat surprising, but it was without a doubt the right decision.
It’s been a miserable month of April for Chad Green and after his performance Tuesday night he left the Yankees no choice but to send him down to Triple-A Scranton. Green entered the game with a 7-1 lead and actually retired the first batter he faced to end the seventh inning. However, in the eighth, after allowing two hits and a walk to start the inning Justin Bour took him deep for a grand slam.
Green’s outing looked eerily familiar to Sunday’s when he was called upon with the Yankees up 5-0 against the Royals and failed to get an out. He left the game with the bases loaded before Adam Ottavino promptly gave up a two-run double and then a game-tying three-run home run. Following Tuesday’s outing, Green’s season ERA is now all the way up to 16.43. He’s already given up four home runs and opponents are hitting .395 against him.
Despite his success out of the pen in the previous two seasons the Yankees can no longer afford to keep sending him out there to let him figure things out in a big league game. He has one minor league option left so it was really a no brainer to send to him to Scranton to iron things out against the lesser competition.
It’s been shocking to see how much Green has regressed to the point where he can no longer be trusted to get outs at the big league level. Nobody could have predicted this, however, last season he did show signs that he was starting to trend downward.
Even though his overall numbers in 2018 were very solid they weren’t nearly as good as the ones he posted during his breakout campaign in 2017.
- 2017: 1.83 ERA, 0.74 WHIP, 69 IP, 34 H, 107 K’s, .147 OPP BA, .454 OPS
- 2018: 2.50 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 75.2 IP, 64 H, 94 K’s, .229 OPP BA, .641 OPS
Across the board, Green saw a decrease in almost every major category and that’s carried over into this season at an alarming rate.
- 2019: 16.43 ERA, 2.48 WHIP, 7.2 IP, 15, 7 K’s, .395 OPP BA, 1.228 OPS
Green has always heavily relied on his four-seam fastball for effectiveness, almost to a fault. Part of the reason he became a reliever and gave up starting was he lacked quality secondary pitches to get through a lineup multiple times. Green has never had a plus slider or changeup but that’s something he’s worked on improving out of the pen in recent years. The problem is he’s never been able to master either pitch to a point where he felt comfortable enough to feature it as a put-away pitch on a regular basis.
In 2017 he thrived throwing his fastball 69.4% of the time with an average velocity of 95.8 but last year that percentage increased to 86.6% of the time. According to FanGraphs, this season he’s thrown fewer fastballs (72.9%) and has tried to sprinkle in more sliders (20.8%) and split-finger changeups (6.3%). However, his fastball velocity has dipped to 94.9 MPH and his control has been way off.
Green hasn’t been getting himself ahead in counts and since he doesn’t have a ton of confidence in his offspeed pitches he’s become much more predictable on the mound. Hitters know that his secondary stuff isn’t overpowering so they’re sitting on his fastball in favorable counts and doing a ton of damage when he throws it.
What made Green’s fastball so hard to square up in 2017 was his ability to locate it but also it’s elite spin rate. This season his spin rate is still above the league average but it has dropped to 2,433 RPM which is down 50 RPM from what it was in 2017. Whenever Green gets in trouble he always goes to his fastball but now that’s it’s decreased in both velo and spin rate it’s not a pitch he can over-rely on because now hitters are ready for it.
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Following Tuesday’s game, Green told the media that he felt fine physically and that mechanical issues were to blame for his struggles. That’s good news that he’s feeling healthy but it’s also concerning because he’s essentially gone from one of the top set-up men in baseball to one of the worst relievers in the game.
It’s hard to comprehend how much Green has fallen to the point where he got demoted back to the minor leagues. I don’t think he or anyone else could have ever envisioned he’d be back there but it was the Yankees only option. Their bullpen as a whole has really underwhelmed so far this season and they need all the help they can get right now.
That means the best place for Green to work his way out of this major funk is with the Railriders. As long as he’s really healthy I’m sure he’ll be back within the next month but at the moment the hard truth is he’s not a major league caliber reliever.