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Chad Green is still trying to find his best fastball

The acclaimed Yankees’ reliever has lost some velo and spin rate on his fastball early on.

MLB: New York Yankees at Baltimore Orioles Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

Chad Green is still very much a key reliever for the New York Yankees. And, as his 2.84 ERA and 2.90 FIP suggest, he is still a top bullpen contributor, or at least has been so far. Green has pitched 6.1 innings and everything looks fine in the run-prevention department. However, he is fanning just 7.11 hitters per nine frames (down from 10.65 in 2021) and walking 4.26, up from 1.83 last year.

Is everything OK with Green? Well, his trademark fastball isn’t yet where he wants it to be in 2022, and that is worth raising an eyebrow more than the 6.1 innings of other rate stats. The heater is averaging 94.4 mph so far, down more than a tick from the 95.7 mph he had on average in 2021. That 94.4 mph number would be a career-low.

It’s still very early to panic, but it’s still noteworthy that Green’s heater is also showing a decreased spin rate (2,312 rpm) compared to last year (2,501 rpm). As a result, his pitch movement profile indicates the pitch is dropping more this year, at 12 inches, compared to 2021’s 10.7 inches. For a high-fastball pitcher like Green, this is not ideal because the forces of gravity can bring down his four-seamer to a zone in which hitters could inflict damage.

Green’s fastball is not only failing to show the same velocity and spin than last year, but it’s also, predictably, yielding worse results:

Green’s fastball: 2021 vs. 2022

Stat/year 2021 2022
Stat/year 2021 2022
wOBA 251 313
xwOBA 289 337
Whiff rate 29.9 22.7
Velocity (mph) 94.4 95.7
BA 184 286
xBA 218 288
SLG 362 333
xSLG 416 424
Spin rate (rpm) 2501 2312

So far, the only stat in which the 2022 version of Green’s fastball has been better than last year’s is slugging percentage, but results-wise, it has been much worse than we have come to expect from Green.

Despite a high wOBA of .399, Green’s curveball has been on point, with an incredible 45.5 percent whiff rate and a much lower .248 xwOBA. On the other hand, his fastball is still, shall we say, in spring training form.

Is this something to worry about? I wouldn’t be putting too much importance on this. After all, he has only thrown 65 fastballs this year, and 6.1 innings. The sample size is just too small to conclude his four-seamer is getting worse. However, I would keep tabs on his velocity, spin rate, and movement profile.

As this image shows, his command has also yet to fully arrive, as many of his pitches have been in the middle part of the zone. It’s also another thing to watch when Green is on the mound.

Overall, I think this is nothing but a temporary thing: pitchers just had a short spring training, and it could take Green a little while to show his best version. I do expect him to fully return to form, as he is a healthy 30-year-old pitcher still in his prime, and is a known second-half performer (3.16 career FIP after the break, compared to 3.43 before).

Regarding Green’s 7.11 K/9, it should eventually go up as his fastball improves. He still has a 15.2 percent swinging strike rate for the year, virtually the same as his 15.5 percent mark last year, and despite some weird situation going on with his called strike rate – it is 9.8 percent, markedly down from 14.4 percent in 2021 – he should get closer to his best version at some point in the next few weeks.