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Should Chad Green be a starter or a reliever?

Chad Green is coming to camp as a starter, but there’s currently no reason he should actually start.

American League Championship Series Game Six: New York Yankees v. Houston Astros

It’s been announced a few times this offseason that Chad Green will come to spring training as a starting pitcher, however, it would be a mistake for the Yankees to actually use him as a starter once the regular season begins. Considering his repertoire as a starter and his work as a reliever, it’s clear that the bullpen is where Green belongs.

Last season during the Montgomery-Green competition for the fifth starter’s job, I wrote that Montgomery should stay in the rotation and Green should move to the bullpen full time. Part of my reasoning then was that Green’s lack of an off-speed pitch would prevent him from being able to turn over a lineup multiple times. However, his fastball-slider-cutter mix could be an asset in the bullpen. As we saw, Green ended up being one of the league’s best relievers last year.

A major part of what made Green great out of the bullpen was his fastball, a pitch he used quite often—as much as 81% of the time in September 2017. Overall, Green increased his usage of the pitch 16.3% between 2016 and 2017. As is also typical for starters-turned-relievers, Green’s fastball velocity ticked up 1.5 mph after his move to the bullpen.

This, combined with the added bonus of increased command and an above average spin rate, made Chad Green’s fastball one of the most deceptive pitches in the game last year. Of his 103 strikeouts last season, 78 of them came off of fastballs. To put it in a league-wide perspective, only Craig Kimbrel generated more swings-and-misses on fastballs in the strike zone last year.

With such immense success with the fastball, Green didn’t need to rely on his secondary offerings, and he cut out the use of offspeed pitches altogether. His slider remained his best secondary offering, but based on his fastball usage, it follows that he mostly just used the slider to keep hitters off his fastball.

While it’s just not possible for us at the moment to know what Green worked on in his bullpens or in the offseason, the lack of offspeed usage in the data we do have doesn’t exactly bode well for a potential starter. Green would have to become a different pitcher to be able to start, and his track record is against him there. Chad Green the reliever certainly isn’t broke, so why change it?

In reality, the Yankees probably don’t envision Green as a starter. I can’t help but think of how many times Adam Warren came to camp as a starter only to be used out of the bullpen almost exclusively. Bringing Green to camp as a starter is likely just for insurance in case something devastating happens in the rotation. Plus, prepping Green as a starter could serve him better in his role in the bullpen.

In 30 out of 39 relief appearances last year, Chad Green pitched more than one inning. Bringing him to camp as a starter allows the Yankees to stretch him out so he can handle all those multi-inning relief appearances. It still remains to be seen how Aaron Boone wants to use Green, but it does look like the new Yankees’ manager values his versatility. In a quote given to Bryan Hoch, Boone stated, “With guys like Chad Green who can come in and go multiple innings and not only put out fires but really dominate in different roles, it gives you so much flexibility.”

Without reading too much into the quote, it seems like Boone might continue to use Green in the same role Joe Girardi did last season. However he’s brought into camp in 2018, one thing is certain: Green turned himself into one of the league’s best relief pitchers 2017. The Yankees shouldn’t—and probably won’t—sacrifice that unless they absolutely have too.