After years of sporting one of the best starting rotations in baseball, the Tigers are entering the 2015 season with some uncertainty in their rotation. We don't quite know what to expect from Justin Verlander after a rough 2014 season, and we've tried our best to break down what Alfredo Simon will offer. However, the biggest unknown of the bunch might be Shane Greene.
Picked up in a three-team trade just prior to the Winter Meetings, Greene's arrival was quickly overshadowed by the blockbuster deal that sent Rick Porcello to the Boston Red Sox six days later. While Simon was added to the rotation mere moments later, Greene will be the one tasked with replacing Porcello's production for the foreseeable future. Under club control through the 2020 season, Greene will need to be productive to keep the Tigers' "stars and scrubs" roster model afloat.
Before we start asking what to expect out of Greene in 2015 and beyond, let's take a look at what he did in 2014.
Greene utilizes a four-pitch mix, primarily relying on his two-seam fastball that sits at 93-94 miles per hour. He throws the two-seamer 37 percent of the time to both right and left-handed hitters. He also throws a four-seam fastball roughly 15 percent of the time, but uses that more often against lefties. His best offspeed pitch is a cutter, which sits around 87 miles per hour. He uses that heavily, throwing it nearly 28 percent of the time overall. Against right-handers, that percentage bumps up to over 32 percent. Greene throws a slider roughly 16 percent of the time, and also uses it much more often against right-handed batters. The slider is more slurvy in nature, sitting in the low 80s. Greene's final pitch is a changeup that he primarily uses against left-handed batters.
The biggest knock on Shane Greene's 2014 numbers was his platoon splits, which are pretty significant. He limited right-handed batters to hitting just .242/.305/.356 with a 4.64 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 164 plate appearances. Left-handed batters hit .281/.365/.400 and a 1.67 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 181 plate appearances. Despite Greene pounding the strike zone low and away against lefties, they were able to muster a 24 percent line drive rate for 45 hits, including 10 extra base hits.
This tendency to nibble at the outside corner is also what could have caused Greene's high walk rate against lefties. His 8.4 percent walk rate doesn't look bad on the whole, but it could have been better. Greene walked left-handed hitters at a 10 percent clip last season, well above the 6.7 percent walk rate he had against righties. Lefties were also less likely to swing and miss on his fastball or slider, resulting in a significant drop-off in strikeout rate.
Who is Shane Greene?
The Tigers acquired starting pitcher Shane Greene from the New York Yankees in a three way trade, sending pitcher Robbie Ray and infielder Domingo Leyba to Arizona. Here's a closer look at Shane Greene.
While Greene allowed the same number of home runs at home as he did on the road, his numbers improved significantly when he was not pitching in Yankee Stadium. Greene was 4-0 with a 2.70 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in six road starts in 2014, compared to 1-4 with a 4.71 ERA at home. He struck out 44 batters to just 10 walks in 36 2/3 innings while allowing 11 earned runs on 33 hits. These weren't cheap wins either. The three teams that Greene beat -- the Orioles (twice), Tigers, and Indians -- all ranked in the top half of the American League in runs scored.
This isn't to say that there weren't flashes of brilliance at home, though. We all remember Greene's electric outing against the Tigers at Yankee Stadium on August 7th. Greene outdueled Rick Porcello, tossing eight shutout innings and leaving Tigers fans wondering "who is this guy?" Greene struck out five batters in that game, and got most of his other outs via the ground ball. He pounded the lower half of the strike zone -- a Greene staple, we've come to learn -- and recorded a very Porcello-like 13 groundouts in eight innings.
Is Greene the answer? His minor league numbers suggest that 2014 could have been a fluke. He posted a 4.39 ERA in 562 1/3 innings across six minor league seasons in the Yankees' farm system. He struck out 509 batters to 222 walks, a 2.29 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He allowed over a hit per inning, resulting in a 1.48 WHIP across all levels. Greene didn't spend much time in the high minors, totaling 145 2/3 innings in 26 starts at Double and Triple A.
Despite concerns over his minor league numbers, the consensus seems to be that Greene is a bit better than advertised. Scouts have indicated that Greene has above average stuff, and Brandon McCarthy offered some unsolicited praise of his former teammate moments after he was traded. Will Greene live up to the billing? We will explore that and more in the next couple weeks.