For years, Chad Green has been one of the most reliable relief pitchers on the Yankees’ roster. His career 3.25 ERA (3.35 FIP), 32.8 percent strikeout rate and a 6.2 percent walk rate in 360.1 innings are proof of that. But right now, he is evidently not pitching well.
Green has been scored upon in his last four appearances, allowing five runs in a span of 4.1 innings. Even worse is the fact that he has conceded home runs in three straight outings, giving the Yankees headaches along the way. Pitching is really hard, and even the best and most reliable hurlers struggle from time to time without any additional explanations other than nobody is perfect and hitters have a bat in their hands and can do damage. However, Green might be tired because the Yankees have been overusing him.
It’s just a theory. Again, this could just be a really weird stretch of games. After all, Green is and has always been homer-prone — he has allowed 1.67 homers per nine innings this year — and since he uses the high fastball a lot, it’s easy to connect the dots. But he’s also quickly approaching his career-high in innings pitched, with roughly two weeks of regular season left. Right now, before Thursday’s game, Green has thrown 75.1 frames: the most he has thrown is 75.2, back in 2018.
Among full-time relievers in MLB, Green is the leader in innings pitched. The next-ranked bullpen arm, Duane Underwood Jr. of the Pittsburgh Pirates, has thrown 72.2 frames. Steamer currently projects Green to pitch 81.1 innings when all is said and done, and ZiPS is forecasting 82.1 frames for him. That’s a lot of wear and tear, especially considering the fact he only threw 25.2 last year in the pandemic season.
He hasn’t been bad at all despite the frequent use. Up to this point, he has a 3.46 ERA, not far off his 3.25 career mark. But it’s undeniable that he has hit a wall, and it’s likely because the accumulated mileage on his arm. Over his last four outings, Green’s velocity has held steady, but it’s not uncommon for a pitcher to show the fatigue through command issues, that often lead to loud hits and, in this case, home runs.
Green has been pitching every two or three days for months now, so perhaps it’s time for the Yankees to better manage his innings from this point through the end of the season to keep him fresh during his outings. Yes, he is a talented, usually-reliable arm and he is needed because the Yankees are far from assured of a playoff spot. But right now, he is ineffective, so something has got to give. Perhaps throwing him out there with more separation between outings, and less stressful innings, may do the trick.
The fact remains that players aren’t robots, especially pitchers. Green’s arm may need a brief break, and perhaps his mind can use one, too. If the Yankees want to see him fresh and dealing, they might have to consider a new plan other than calling his number every two or three days non-stop.
It’s true that with Zack Britton and Darren O’Day out for the year, and Jonathan Loaisiga currently on the shelf, the Yankees’ bullpen depth has taken hit after hit. But making sure Green is healthy, fresh, and putting him in a position to succeed should also be a priority.