If you watched Monday’s win against the Los Angeles Angels, you no doubt would’ve seen the blown save montage that YES ran as Chad Green entered the game to close out the ninth. Frankly, I wasn’t surprised to see it, either — after all, Green has uncharacteristically not been himself this year, right?
Not so fast. Let’s get this out of the way right away: Yes, Green has blown four saves. Yes, that matches the career mark he set in 2018. And, yes, they have come at inopportune times. Got it? Okay, good, because the truth of the matter is that Green is being used more than ever and is actually in the midst of his best season since 2018, so it’s time we hyped him up a bit:
To start, consider Green’s effectiveness compared to his previous seasons. Over 61.1 innings pitched across 49 appearances, Green has pitched to a very solid 3.08 ERA and 3.39 FIP — both of which are hovering right around his career marks of 3.17 and 3.25, respectively — while walking people at a career low rate. Although I don’t really put a lot of stock in WAR when it comes to relievers, it is very nice to see him on pace to post his second best career mark in fWAR.
However, for anyone concerned about Green (or, in particular, whichever producer okayed that video montage on Monday), I want you to compare his line-by-line numbers in 2021 and his career averages at the bottom of the graph in grey. He’s striking people out a little less frequently (though 10.27 K/9 is certainly nothing to scoff at), he’s not stranding as many runners as he usually does, and his groundball percentage is a little lower than usual. That’s it. From a purely numbers perspective, Green is about as consistent of a reliver as you’re going to get.
But what do the Statcast numbers tell us?
Believe it or not, Statcast says pretty much the same thing. It’s almost like it’s really hard for data to lie.
Although Green gives up his fair share of hard contact — likely due to the fact that he’s historically been a fastball-first pitcher (more on this in a second, though) — he’s currently in the top eight percent of the league in wOBA and top ten percent in walk percentage. Aside from that, though, every important stat from this chart demonstrates the model of consistency we’ve come to expect from Green over the course of his career.
To my eye, the only (mild) cause for concern is Green’s launch angle percentage being roughly five points higher than his career mark, but, as seen in the numbers pulled from FanGraphs, that hasn’t necessarily translated to a leap in any important metric. In fact, the only thing it’s influenced is his batted-ball profile, where his groundball rates are down and his flyball and popup numbers are much higher than his career averages. Since Green’s HR/9 rate, xSLG, and xwOBA are pretty much right in line with his career numbers, though, that’s not really a cause for concern in my books.
The only real outlier to me here is his curveball usage. Green’s fastball velocity is in the 88th percentile of the league (great) and his fastball spin rate is in the 93rd percentile (GREAT). Despite having one of the best fastballs in the league, he’s throwing his four-seamer a career-low 63.5 percent of the time and his curveball usage has made a massive leap to a career-high 35.9 percent.
So why is Green throwing the curveball so much? To be honest, I’m not really sure. His xBA on fastballs is fairly in line with his career numbers, as is his hard-hit percentage. His xwOBA — currently sitting at .288 — might have something to do with that, but the simple fact of the matter is that his fastball has posted the second-best whiff percentage of his career. So, if we’re getting nitpicky and hoping to squeeze even more value out of Green, he should probably throw his fastball a little more. And, selfishly, very few things in life are prettier than a swinging third strike on a high-90s fastball at the top of the zone from Green.
So, yeah, more fastballs, please.
Green broke out for the Yankees as a coveted relief fireman in 2017 and 2018, when he was virtually unhittable. After a comparatively rough 2019 campaign that included an early-season demotion to Triple-A, Green rebounded in the COVID-shortened 2020 season and has produced very strong results in what is shaping up to be his most labour-intensive season yet.
The truth of the matter is that Green is a very good reliever in the midst of a bit of a rough stretch in an otherwise exceptional season. Across his last 10 appearances prior to Tuesday, Green pitched to a 4.38 ERA and blown three saves (it’s worth nothing that the Yankees have gone on to win two of those games). Prior to the All-Star Game, though, he was sitting pretty with a 2.89 ERA with 50 strikeouts to just eight walks.
The life of a high-leverage reliever is arguably the hardest in the major leagues. With just over 40 games left in the season, Green is on pace to absolutely shatter his career-high in innings pitched. Part of that total is due to Aroldis Chapman’s injury, COVID-19 outbreaks, and general ineffectiveness from other relievers, but the majority of the innings are coming his way because he has been one of the Yankees best relievers during the last five years.
The aforementioned 10-game stretch is not indicative of Chad Green’s season. I am positive that he will get right again. And the simple fact of the matter is that he’s done enough over the course of his career in pinstripes to earn some patience from Yankees fans.