Chad Green's Dominant Performance on Monday Was No Fluke
We should have seen it coming. The writing was on the wall.
"It" referring to how Chad Green of the New York Yankees dominated the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday night. Check out the nastiness for yourself.
RECAP: Chad Green tallies 11 Ks in stellar outing against the Jays. https://t.co/F7paBcC695https://t.co/h8fMMOYWA3
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) August 16, 2016
Green left the game after 6 innings because of a high pitch count (104 pitches), but finished with a line of 2 hits, no walks and 11 strikeouts. The Blue Jays only hit three balls out of the infield against Green, and they are one of baseball's better hitting teams this season, scoring the sixth-most runs with the third-best ISO (.184) and the eighth-best wOBA (.326).
Josh Donaldson, owner of the fifth-best wOBA this season (.405), did not look the part on Monday, striking out twice against against Green with a groundout. Donaldson shouldn't feel too bad about himself, as Green was untouchable for much of the night, including recording his last six outs via strikeout, vaulting him into the Yankees' record books.
Chad Green is 3rd rookie in Yankees history w/ 10+ K & no walks in a game (Stan Bahnsen in 1968 & Ivan Nova in 2011) pic.twitter.com/ksLEUIST6l
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 16, 2016
Green's dominant outing was all the more impressive considering he had made just four big-league starts prior to Monday's contest, and he was called-up from Triple-A earlier in the day to make a spot start. He likely earned himself another turn in the rotation, despite his first four starts not going as planned.
Don't Judge a Book by Its Cover
Including four relief appearances with the Yankees this season, Green entered Monday's matchup against Toronto with a 4.94 ERA in 27 1/3 innings pitched. It's a small sample size, but 15 earned runs over such a small amount of innings pitched is not great, Bob. (Forgive me if that gif has been run into the ground, but it's fitting.) Thankfully, we have other stats besides ERA that are more reflective of a pitcher's actual performance, and they give us reasons why we should have seen Green's turnaround coming.
Entering Monday's start, both Green's xFIP (3.40) and SIERA (3.64) were significantly lower than his ERA, the first indications that perhaps he wasn't pitching as poorly as his traditional stats suggested. He was also inducing a high amount of swings and misses with a swinging-strike rate at 12.2%, a total that would rank ninth-best among qualified pitchers this season. This, unsurprisingly, led to an elite strikeout percentage of 24.4%, a number just 21 qualified starters have bested this season.
In addition to Green generating lots of swings and misses, when hitters were making contact, they tended to put the ball on the ground. His 49.4% ground-ball rate prior to Monday's start would have placed him among the top-25 qualified starters this year. Inducing ground balls is beneficial for pitchers because even though they tend to go for hits more often than fly balls, they rarely become extra-base hits. In other words, pitchers who are able to create a large amount of ground balls tend to allow less runs to score.
The reason Green's ERA was close to 5.00 before his domination of the Blue Jays was partly because of being stung by the longball. He allowed 8 home runs -- 4 in one outing -- and a 38.1% home run-to-fly ball ratio, which is well above the current league average of 12.8%. Pitching in Yankee Stadium won't do Green any favors -- they have the second-highest home run park factor -- but it's safe to say that a 38.1% home-run-to-fly-ball ratio is not sustainable.
Dealing Down on the Farm
Since 27 1/3 innings is a minuscule sample size, examining how Green performed in the minors should give us a better idea of if how he's done in the big leagues is sustainable.
Green threw 94 2/3 innings in Triple-A this season, and it could be argued that he has been the best Triple-A pitcher this season.
Among pitchers with at least 90 innings pitched, Green ranks first in ERA (1.52), FIP (2.11) and WHIP (.094), third in opponent batting average (.198) and fifth in strikeout rate (27.4%). Outings like what he did on Monday could be a sign of things to come, especially if he's able to use his slider like he did against the Blue Jays.
Retooling His Arsenal
Before Monday's start, Green's highest percentage of sliders thrown in a start for the Yankees was just under 28%, according to Brooks Baseball. On Monday, it was his most frequently thrown pitch, using it a little more than 41% of the time. He generated 9 swings and misses on this pitch, which comes out to swing-and-miss rate of 20.9%, almost double the previous high in his other four starts (12.5%).
Surprisingly, with an average velocity of 84 miles per hour (MPH), it was the slowest he threw his slider this season, yet it was the most effective. Perhaps it was due to the average velocity of his fastball -- his second most frequently thrown pitch on Monday -- being the second-hardest on the year (95.4 MPH), making the difference in speeds of the two pitches more than 11 MPH, which, ostensibly, keeps hitters off balance.
Despite turning to his cutter the third-most of any pitch on Monday (14.42%), this was the lowest total on the season, except for Green's first start in which he didn't throw the pitch at all (he only threw fastballs, sinkers, and sliders). His cutter didn't generate any whiffs against Toronto, and Green will likely need to throw his changeup more often moving forward. He threw this pitch just twice on Monday, again a season low minus his first start of the year.
Green's impressive start against the Blue Jays lowered his ERA to 4.05, his xFIP to 2.79 and his SIERA to 3.06. It also increased his ground-ball rate to 50.0%, his strikeout rate to 28.8% and his swinging-strike rate to 12.8%.
His resume is an impressive one, but with just 33 1/3 innings under his belt in the big leagues, we'll need more data before naming him a future Cy Young award winner. However, the writing on the wall we do have suggests the 25-year-old has a bright future.