Whether as a multi-inning reliever under Joe Girardi or more of a single-inning guy under Aaron Boone, Chad Green has been a force out of the Yankee bullpen since moving there full time in 2017. He was absolutely lights out in 2017 by simply overpowering hitters with his fastball. With an above-average spin rate and control, only Craig Kimbrel generated more swings-and-misses with the pitch. Green leaned into that philosophy more so during the 2018 season, but he was unable to find the same levels of success. In 2019, Chad Green will need to find more consistency with his secondary pitches or it could spell trouble for the Yankees bullpen.
Green rode his fastball to great success during 2017, throwing it nearly 70% of the time. In 2018, he threw significantly more fastballs (86.6%). Who can blame him? Green’s fastball was unhittable in 2017, so it’s not impossible to see his logic behind throwing it more this season. However, hitters knew the fastball was coming, and hit Green a lot more in 2018.
Hitters swung at Green’s pitches about 7% more than they did in 2017 and it resulted in 7.6% more contact. It’s not like hitters were just getting more singles off of Green either. Exit velocity and Barrel% had marked increases and his HR/9 rate doubled in 2018.
Don’t get me wrong. Chad Green was still very good in 2018. He was top-20 in fWAR for relievers, which was the second-best figure for a reliever without a save. Green’s 1.78 BB/9 was best on the entire Yankee staff too. With that said, there’s no doubting Green took a step back in 2018, and the reason is because hitters knew they would likely get a couple of chances at a fastball in any given at-bat.
Green used a slider as his go-to secondary offering against right-handed hitters, but it’s really not much of an out-pitch. Hitters hit over .400 and slugged .655 off of his slider this season. The ineffectiveness of the pitch is undoubtedly part of the reason Green had to throw even more fastballs this season. Out of necessity, Green brought back his splitter -- occasionally labeled a changeup -- late last season. Here it is:
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
That’s a pretty solid pitch, and it’s no coincidence Green’s numbers improved when he started throwing it more last August. Developing trust and consistency with his secondary offerings is going to be key for him in 2019. In fact, Green spoke with Jack Curry earlier this week about this commitment to improving his secondary offerings this offseason and prioritizing that part of his repertoire during spring training.
Chad Green isn’t the new kid on the block anymore. Hitters know his primary weapon is his fastball, and while his fastball is still really good, it’s not Mariano Rivera’s cutter. Green has to develop more consistent secondary pitches, or he might just continue to trend in the wrong direction.