On Friday night Chasen Shreve got absolutely rocked for four earned runs without recording a single out. It launched his season ERA from 0.75 to 3.75 in just 16 pitches. It was a terrible outing. Then on Sunday, he went out and pitched a perfect inning with a couple of strikeouts. A tale of two Shreves indeed, though that’s not quite what I mean by the title.
You see Shreve is actually having a really solid season so far. ERA isn’t the best indicator for relievers, so his now 3.46 isn’t that relevant. Shreve’s other numbers are actually in really solid shape at this point in the year. He’s striking out 12.5 per 9 innings, his WHIP sits at 1.15, and he’s limited opposing hitters to just two home runs (one of those coming Friday night). This is pretty standard stuff for Shreve in his career. So then why do we often remember him as a below average reliever who fans typically call to send down each year, or remove from the team completely? Well, throughout his career it really is a tale of two Shreve’s.
Shreve basically operates the same each season. He has a pretty strong April through July, and then he implodes in August and September. Throughout his career, he has shown great numbers in the first two-thirds of the season, with a bit of a hiccup in May, and then whether due to fatigue or something else, performs poorly down the stretch. No wonder at the end of each season we remember him as a poor pitcher. It’s the old “what have you done for me lately” adage.
Does the pressure get to him down the stretch? His K/9 actually increases in the final two months of the season while his WHIP and ERA soar. Is he trying too hard to strike batters out? Digging deeper, his K/walk ratio actually decreases. So though he’s striking out more batters later in the season, it’s not making up for the additional runners he’s putting on base. Shreve gets better results earlier in the season when he has better command. What’s interesting to note though in a small sample size is that Shreve’s current 12.5 strikeouts per 9 innings is higher than any of his career month totals, yet he’s kept his WHIP respectable. History suggests he probably won’t maintain this ratio, but who knows. He is just 27. Maybe he’s turning a corner.
So then maybe it’s fatigue? It doesn’t seem like it should be. Since coming to the Yankees, his innings totals each season are reasonable: 58 IP in 2015, 33 in ’16 and 45 in ’17. He also doesn’t seem to pitch significantly more innings in any specific month, so it’d be odd if he were wearing out as the season went on.
Whatever the case may be, what’s clear is that Shreve gets worse as the season wanes. And that’s why we tend to think of him as a below-average pitcher. But for now? Career numbers suggest that his latest blip is just that for now, a blip. If history repeats itself, Shreve should remain a useful member of the bullpen, at least for the next few months.