Chad Green hasn’t been enjoying the same shutdown season he posted last year. His numbers across the board are generally worse than his stellar 2017 campaign, as his FIP has increased from 1.75 to 3.10, his hard contact is up eight percent, and his HR/9 has more than doubled. Given just how dominant he was last year, that shouldn’t be considered too much of a disappointment, but it’d be nice to see him find that success again.
Green’s high nineties fastball mixed with his effective slider gave him a lethal arsenal that made him one of the best bullpen arms in baseball during the Yankees’ run to the ALCS last season. This year, he has had to labor more often. His strikeouts per nine have dipped from 13.43 to 10.97. That’s likely due to the fact that hitters have become wise to his slider, causing Green to drop his slider usage to 12 percent in 2018 (he was throwing it 22 percent of the time in 2017).
Thanks to an improved command of the strike zone, Green has been able to maintain solid numbers and still contribute out of the pen, but he needed a boost to return him to form. As we saw last year with Luis Severino, adding an effective third pitch can go a long way in returning to dominance. A third pitch for Green would diminish the chance for hitters to sit on that fastball up in the zone, and keep them on their toes.
Enter this ridiculous filth:
Chad Green's season: got his slider blasted a several times, throws fastball mostly, hitters sat on his fastball, now has added this nasty splitter. pic.twitter.com/77qbL3AhSB— Sung Min Kim (@sung_minkim) August 9, 2018
Green’s new toy appears to have a splitter grip to it, hence the ball’s drastic downward movement that was located perfectly on this particular pitch. It has actually been tracked as a changeup by FanGraphs and Brooks Baseball, likely due to the 88 mph velocity, which is 8 mph less than his average fastball.
With this new weapon, Green can go back to his old slider at times, while showing his plus velocity on the fastball to set hitters up for this nasty split/change that carries plenty of movement to keep hitters off balance. Of course, the trick is throwing it enough to increase confidence and command. We’re already seeing that from Green this month, and it could be the key to getting him back to peak performance.
Again, the pitch is being logged as a changeup, and it’s one that Green never used until this August, and it has already eclipsed his slider in terms of usage. This has also given him the ability to dial down the number of fastballs considerably. In his outing against the White Sox on Wednesday night, when he unleashed that vicious pitch you see in the tweet above, Green used the offering 22% of the time, right on par with his previous outing.
He also struck out the side (granted, the White Sox strike out a lot, but impressive nonetheless). Back in the Boston series at Fenway, Green used the splitter/change just six percent of the time, and allowed a run on three hits in just 2⁄3 of an inning. Two nights later against the same Red Sox, Green upped it to 23 percent, and struck out two in a scoreless inning of work.
Of course, there will be growing pains with Green’s new repertoire. His usage of the pitch decreased in his last outing against the Rangers, where he surrendered a pair of runs and once again increased his fastball usage to over 70 percent. This will come with the process of mastering a new pitch on the fly. If Green can get it right before October and find some consistency, Boone and the Yankees will be ecstatic.