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Chad Green’s minor league stint helped both him and the Yankees

Green has looked more like his old self since returning from his demotion to Triple-A.

San Diego Padres v New York Yankees Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Yankees relief pitcher Chad Green has had an up and down season thus far. Or, given his terrible start and recent resurgence, perhaps it’s more apt to say he’s been down and up. His first ten games of the season were tough to watch, during which he tossed 7.2 innings and gave up a whopping 14 runs. During that stretch, teams hit .407 on balls in play, and Green only struck out seven batters.

Green’s success on the mound typically derives from the strikeout. In the previous two seasons combined, Green struck out 197 hitters. He “lives and dies” on getting the K. If he’s not forcing his opponents to swing and miss, he’s going to get himself into trouble.

In late April, the Yankees demoted Green to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. This came a day after he recorded just one out in an eighth-inning appearance against the Los Angeles Angels and gave up a grand slam to Justin Bour in the process.

Green used getting sent down as a wake-up call. During his time with the RailRiders, Green hurled 7.1 innings with an ERA of 2.45. He zeroed in on getting back to the fundamentals and getting into a rhythm. The most important thing he prioritized was missing bats. He struck out 14 of the 22 batters he faced. That’s a 63% strikeout rate! The Yankees would call him back up to the majors in mid-May in hopes of replicating his Triple-A stint.

In his first appearance back on the big league squad, Green would work a 1-2-3 ninth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays, and of course, he struck out all three batters.

There was one obvious change Green made and it was noticeable as soon as he threw his first pitch. It was the placement of his glove when he got set. While in Scranton, he, and some of his pitching coaches dug deep into his film to figure out what went wrong. They noticed that his balance and direction on the mound were off. Moving his hands up by his neck has helped him feel more balanced and in control compared to his hands down by his waist.

Chad Green getting set before and after being sent down to the minors.

Another glaring problem that Green had during his early-season struggles was the location of his fastball. He throws his fastball more than 70% of the time, according to BrooksBaseball. In this day in age, when throwing 95 mph isn’t all that special anymore, location is crucial. If a pitcher misses their spot, the batter may take him for a ride. That was exactly Green’s problem. His fastball was flat and thrown right over the plate. Batters were teeing off, causing his numbers to inflate.

Chad Green’s Slugging/Balls in Play heatmap from March 30, 2019-April 23, 2019

Fortunately for Green, it seems as if he solved that problem since his return. His four-seamer has more life to it and is accumulating more swings and misses. He has struck out 28.6% of batters he’s faced and is throwing his fastball at an average of 96.4 MPH. Before being sent to Scranton, he was striking out just 16.3% of batters and his fastball was clocked at an average of 94.8 MPH.

In 21 games, Green has 24 strikeouts. 17 of those have been recorded following his return to the majors. During his “opener” start against the Cleveland Indians on Sunday, he tossed 2.0 innings, giving up one hit (a bloop single) and striking out three. His fastball command was a huge part of his success as he set down those three Indians all swinging at the fastball.

Green has been a workhorse ever since his demotion. He’s both started and relieved in ballgames, and has done almost everything the Yankees have asked. He owns a 3.46 ERA paired with a 3.45 FIP in his last 11 appearances, and he has only walked two. Even if opponents are getting on, they’re having trouble crossing the plate. Green has left an astounding 81.4% of runners on base.

The Yankees have put their trust in an improved pitcher as of late. If he can keep this up, he might soon be officially back to the old Chad Green that we know and love.