Remember Shane Greene's first three starts of the season? Those were fun times. Greene allowed one run in his first 23 innings, resulting in a 3-0 record and an ERA that more closely resembled Miguel Cabrera's batting average. The Detroit Tigers were praised for plucking Greene away from the New York Yankees last offseason, while New York tabloids proclaimed the deal a dud in mid-April.
Fast forward two months, and the only dud has been Greene. Since his near-immaculate start to the season, Greene is 1-6 with an 8.60 ERA. He has given up 45 runs (43 earned) in his last 45 innings, and has a 1.73 WHIP. His strikeout rate has perked up slightly, but so has his walk rate. He has given up nine home runs, and opponents are batting .328/.383/.575. Most important of all, the Tigers are 3-7 in Greene's last 10 starts. They are not winning when he takes the mound, and it is because of his inability to get opposing batters out.
Shane Greene needs to be sent down to the minor leagues.
Greene has shown occasional flashes of his early season form, but overall, his performance is hurting the Tigers' chances of winning. Last night's loss to the Chicago Cubs was the sixth time Greene has failed to pitch at least five innings this season, and the third time he has been unable to get through four frames. After averaging 7 2/3 innings per start in his first three outings, he is now averaging just 4 1/2 innings per start. He is putting extra stress on a bullpen that peripheral numbers suggest has been fairly lucky, and while the fatigue has not come back to bite the Tigers yet, it will.
Greene has been unable to keep games within striking distance for the offense, which has had its own struggles. He is allowing a run per inning in his last 10 starts, and has allowed nearly two baserunners per frame. Last night's game was the sixth time he has allowed at least five runs, and the offense has only been able to bail him out once. The Tigers have scored 14 runs in Greene's last three starts, and are 0-3.
Demoting Greene to the minors may seem like admitting failure to some, but the Tigers have had success with sending starting pitchers to Triple-A Toledo for a quick tune-up in the past. After allowing a 7.29 ERA in his first eight starts in a Tigers uniform, Max Scherzer made a quick two-start trip south of the Michigan-Ohio border. He returned to Detroit two weeks later and pitched his way to a 2.46 ERA for the rest of the 2009 season.
Rick Porcello didn't have the same dominant streak following his demotion in 2010, but he did sort out some difficulties. After allowing a 6.14 ERA in his first 13 starts in 2010, Porcello gave up 10 runs in four starts at Toledo. He returned to Detroit and held opponents to a 4.00 ERA in his final 14 starts at the MLB level. A few starts in Toledo could give Greene a chance to fix whatever ails him right now -- fastball command is one problem I've noticed -- and get back on track.
While Greene has struggled, the Tigers have gotten solid performances out of lefthanders Kyle Lobstein and Kyle Ryan. With Lobstein currently on the disabled list, Ryan could be the fill-in starter the Tigers need until Greene sorts out his issues. Ryan allowed an unearned run in three innings in relief last night, lowering his ERA to 2.08 in 13 major league innings this season. He isn't a long-term answer, but will likely provide the Tigers a better chance at winning than Greene currently is.