Chad Green’s minor league demotion seems to have really done him some good. Since returning to the big leagues on May 12th, he’s thrown 17 innings to the tune of a 2.65 ERA and has 26 strikeouts to boot. The Yankees are 12-1 in the games he’s pitched and 6-0 in games he’s opened.
In large part, the return of his fastball velocity and command has propelled his resurgence. Green’s fastball is better in every conceivable way than it was before his demotion. His average fastball velocity was 94.8 mph, prior but now it sits 96.5 mph. Prior to May 12th, his fastball was a ball about 40% of the time, but now only about 31% of the time. Additionally, his called strike percentage on fastballs is up about 5%, and whiffs are up to 14.5% from 9.2%.
These statistics suggest the Chad Green of old is back, and as far as his fastball is concerned, that much is true. Except, he’s not exactly the Chad Green of old because he’s deployed his slider much differently than he has in years past.
Green’s weakness has always been his lack of a legitimate secondary offering. In 2017 and 2018, he got by on essentially just his fastball. He was still a great reliever in 2018, but by the end of last season, hitters started catching up to the pitch. Slippages in Green’s hard contact, exit velocity, barrel percentage, and homer rates indicate as such. This offseason, I wrote Green needed to focus on improving his secondary offerings, and right now, it looks like he’s found a way to do that.
Green’s throwing more sliders than ever before. Since being recalled, he goes to his slider about 23% of the time. Between May 2017 and the end of 2018, he went to that pitch about 15% of the time, suggesting he’s more comfortable spinning his slider than ever before.
More interestingly, Green’s going to his slider in counts where hitters might not expect one. Most of his sliders come on 1-1 and 2-1 counts. In 1-1 counts, Green goes to his slider 38.7% of the time, and about 36% of the time in 2-1 counts. On average, Yankee pitchers go to sliders in those counts about 19% and 22% of the time, respectively.
In previous seasons, hitters were most likely to see Green’s slider in more traditional, non-fastball counts: 0-1 and 1-2. In 2019, he’s using his slider in a non-traditional way, subverting conventional pitch sequence philosophy, and that could be what’s keeping hitters off his slider almost completely.
Hitters swing at his sliders about 36% of the time when it’s outside the zone and about 83% of the time when the pitch is inside it. Both figures are significant jumps from 2017 and 2018, and hitters aren’t making near as much contact than they did the past two seasons. Contact is made with outside-the-zone sliders about 39% of the time and about 71% of the time on in-the-zone sliders. Both are significant improvements from year’s past. Overall, Green has more than doubled his swinging strike percentage on his slider this season.
Not only is Green using sliders differently, but it also probably doesn’t hurt he’s has been throwing the pitch much harder than he has previously. Here’s a table showing his slider velocity for the past three seasons:
Chad Green slider velocity
The combination of increased and nontraditional usage and velocity seems to be a winning one for Green. His batted ball profile with sliders seems to suggest so at least. It could mean he is back to being one of the league’s most dominant relievers, but it might not.
Green’s slider couldn’t be much more average in terms of movement. The pitch has a vertical drop 4% worse than league average and horizontal movement that grades as exactly average. That figure is a little bit worrying on it’s own. It could mean this resurgence isn’t sustainable and that it’s just a matter of time before hitters adjust to his slider.
Regardless of what may or may not happen in the future, Green is undoubtedly helping the Yankees win right now, and that’s really all that matters. To reiterate, the Yankees are 12-1 in the games he’s pitched and 6-0 in games he’s opened. Until Luis Severino or Domingo German returns or the Yankees can get another bonafide starter via trade, the team will have to keep calling on Green, and right now, that’s a completely viable option because of the adjustments he’s made.