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The importance of Chad Green’s new weapon

Last year Chad Green was a revelation in the Yankees’ bullpen. A former starter with limited success, his stuff played up big time out of the bullpen. In 40 appearances last year he threw 69 innings of 1.83 ERA ball and a 13.43 K/9. He was a multi-inning monster, averaging 1.73 innings per appearance.

This year, Green has still been excellent, but slightly less so. He has been used more conventionally, appearing in 48 games and throwing 57 innings. His ERA is up a full run to 2.84 and his K/9 has dropped to 10.58. These are still great numbers, albeit not as great as last year. And that makes a lot of sense – last year hitters were unprepared for Green’s high-octane high-spin rate heaters at the top of the zone and now they have had a year to study him.

FanGraphs has a metric called pitch values which tells you how valuable a pitch has been, similar to how WAR can tell you how valuable a player has been. Last year, Green’s fastball was worth 23.4 runs. This year, that value is down almost in half to 12.6 runs. What that tells you is that his fastball is not as good this year as it was last year, or that hitters are having more success against it.

The slider tells an even worse story. Green’s slider is by no means elite – he largely uses it to have a breaking ball and change of speed from his elite heater. Last year it was worth 3.4 runs. Not a great number, but still a positive value. This year, however, that value is all the way down to -6.1 which is pretty awful. Hitters are having no trouble with Green’s slider this year, so like all pitchers, he has had to adjust.

Enter the Changeup

According to Brooks Baseball, Chad Green did not throw a changeup before this year. As a starter in 2016, he used a cutter, sinker, and occasional splitter. In the chart below, take a look at how Green’s pitch usage evolved over the past two years.

At the start of 2017, he was using all his pitches but as the season went on, he honed in in just using his fastball 3/4 of the time and his slider 1/4 of the time. This season, he started out with the same pitch breakdown. But as the slider kept getting beat, he gradually increased his fastball usage at the expense of the slider to the point where over 90% of pitches were fastball. Since adding the changeup after the all-star break, you can see that the fastball usage is back down to about 75 percent and the changeup has overtaken the slider as Green’s primary off-speed pitch.

Here is what the pitch looks like:

The pitch has similar velocity to the slider and has five inches of horizontal movement. The pitch also has four inches of vertical movement.  In just one month, the pitch has been worth 0.8 runs. Out of his hand, the pitch looks similar to his fastball which helps create deception on both pitches. It will be interesting to see how Green uses his slider for the rest of the season because it has not been effective thus far, but maybe adding the changeup will also help add deception to the slider because now hitters have more to think about.

Many relievers are able to get by with just one or two different pitches. Aroldis Chapman thrived using just his fastball because he threw so much harder than everyone else. Dellin Betances has a ridiculous fastball and knuckle curve combination.

Last year, Chad Green succeeded as well with only two pitches – an amazing fastball and a decent slider. This year, both of those pitches have been less effective in part due to batters getting used to Green, and I think there has been an overall adjustment to high-spin rate fastballs up in the zone as more pitchers employ them.

To adjust back to the league, Chad Green started throwing a changeup this month, and hopefully this new weapon will help him dominate once again.

You can contact Rohan on Twitter @rohanarcot20