As of yesterday, Joe Girardi said that Tyler Clippard will be the Yankees’ “seventh inning guy”. That’s funny, because he’s also the owner of this wonderful stat from James Smyth: ten “meltdowns” in 2017 (lowering win expectancy by more than 6% in an appearance), second in baseball behind Brett Cecil (11). I propose another player that should be given a shot at a seventh inning, or any high leverage role, and his name is Chad Green.
This is coming from someone who isn’t Green’s biggest fan, but I really do think he’s found his niche. After trying it out as a starter in 2016 with incredibly mixed results, Girardi converted him to reliever in the hopes he could leverage his powerful stuff. So far, it’s worked.
This season Green has put up a 56 ERA- and 61 FIP- in 22 innings with a sizable 26 strikeouts and just five walks. For one thing, he’s throwing harder than he did for much of last year. Secondly, he has added considerable horizontal movement to his fastball and cutter. Just look at how different a strikeout looks between his very first one...
...and a strikeout against Pablo Sandoval this year:
An immediate reaction is that the mechanics are very different. He now operates out of the stretch, which is a great tactic in simplifying the entire approach. If you look at his first start, you can see how wonky that whole windup is. He also generates a ton more torque through his legs this year, which is why he lets his lower body do the work. Now he can rear back and have the confidence to blow one by a hitter.
The result is that, on average, he is inducing a lot more whiffs:
Instead of his slider having to be his out-pitch, the fastball and cutter work quite nicely. The problem with all of this is the fact he hasn’t been used in big spots. We won’t know how he’ll perform until he’s given those innings. Despite his great numbers, he has the sixth-lowest gmLI in the bullpen, which is the leverage index when a pitcher enters the game. This means that, essentially, five pitchers have gotten precedence in high leverage spots: Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, Clippard, Chasen Shreve, and Adam Warren.
All except Clippard have pitched quite well, so I don’t think they should necessarily be jettisoned from the Circle of Trust™. But if the Yankees are going to keep blowing games in the bullpen, you might as well try to give someone like Green a shot considering his immense growth. If a pitcher is going to have the second-best ERA- and fourth-best FIP- in the bullpen, and a host of other variables that foreshadow success, it’d be best if he was treated as such.