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What the Yankees need Chad Green to improve on in the minors

Green has been flat-out awful to start the season, and some time in the minors may help him bolster his slider and splitter.

Divisional Round - Boston Red Sox v New York Yankees - Game Three Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The rapid decline of Chad Green has been brutal for Yankee fans to watch. One of the most valuable relievers in all of baseball in 2017, Green felt like the next Dellin Betances, and his clutch performance in the Wild Gard Game put the Yankees in a position to make a comeback and eventually reach the ALCS.

That feels like an awfully long time ago right now. Aaron Boone has resorted to bringing Green into low-leverage situations, which Green immediately turns into adventures that the rest of the bullpen has to climb out of. Take Tuesday night for example; Green entered with a 7-1 lead that turned into a 7-5 advantage before Green could record an out, after surrendering a grand slam to Justin Bour on a painfully flat slider right down the pipe.

This salami by Bour is a microcosm of Green’s struggles, which started to surface last year. The righty doesn’t have a second plus-pitch, allowing opposing hitters to sit on his fastball, which has actually lost about 1.5 mph since last year. The result has been a rapid decline in value on a fastball that appeared unhittable just two seasons ago.

Courtesy of Statcast

Green’s fastball value has dropped from 17.9 in 2018 to -6.2 this season, per FanGraphs. As a result, the struggling reliever has nearly doubled his slider usage, and when his sliders look like the one that Bour hit into next week, that’s just not a recipe for success.

Simply put, Green needs a better secondary pitch to complement his fastball, which still can be effective when located properly and balanced with other supporting offerings. It’s slightly slower than his first two seasons in the big leagues, but that velocity could come back a bit as the season progresses. The issue is, it’s hard to improve his slider or split finger at the major league level. Think back to Luis Severino, who was knocked around in 2016 as he tried to find a third pitch to make him an effective starter. That took time, and Green might need the same. Now that the Yankees have optioned him to Triple-A, Green can take this time to focus on his slider, or the splitter he broke out last summer, and get back to keeping hitters guessing.

There’s no way around the fact that Green has been knocked around badly this season. He ranks near the bottom of the league in exit velocity and hard contact allowed, and his chase percentage is down six percent. It’s been a catastrophic start for someone who was supposed to be an anchor in one of the best bullpens in history. Instead, he has been leapfrogged in the pen by Luis Cessa. However, Green’s downward trajectory has been happening since last year. His fastball still has life, but he needs to improve his secondary pitches, like the slider or splitter, to return to what he was in 2017. It might take some time in Scranton to accomplish that, so the Yankees seem to have made the right move here.

Still, with Dellin Betances still out, and a bullpen that has already blown a number of leads this season, the Yankees could really use the old Chad Green, and soon. They must hope that a short spell away from the spotlight is all he needs to fix what’s broken.